The number of people flying has rarely been greater, however the CAA's latest Passenger Survey Report shows nearly half of us now fly alone with hardly anyone getting the traditional wave off.

In 2013 around 230 million passengers used UK airports to enjoy a holiday, visit family and friends, or take a business trip, however of those starting or ending their trips in the UK, almost half, 49%,*,** decided to travel solo. London City Airport had the highest proportion of lone passengers, 74%, followed by Aberdeen, 72%, with East Midlands having the least with just 24% of passengers travelling alone.

Passengers2 travelling for business were most likely to fly alone, with 86% doing so. For other passengers, 64% of those visiting friends or relatives (VFR) travelled alone although only 19% of leisure passengers, going on holiday went alone. Most holidaymakers, 51%, preferred to travel with one other person.*

At the same time very few people received a wave off from a friend or loved one - customary of fond farewell, with just 4% getting waved off from the terminal building.*

The group most likely to be waved on their way were passengers VFRs totalling 8%, of the airports surveyed. Birmingham Airport topped the charts with 27% of VFR passengers getting waved off, followed by Newcastle Airport at 20%. Less than 2%2 of business passengers were waved off.

These latest figures have been taken from just two of the questions posed to 230,000 departing travellers who took part in the CAA's 2013 Passenger Survey Report.

The CAA carries out the annual survey to improve its understanding of the people who use the UK's airports. Thirteen airports took part in the 2013 survey namely: Aberdeen; Birmingham; East Midlands; Edinburgh; Gatwick; Glasgow; Heathrow; Inverness; London City; Luton; Manchester; Newcastle and Stansted.

Other key findings from the CAA's 2013 Passenger Survey Report include:

  • London City has the highest proportion of passengers travelling for business (55%), with the next highest being Heathrow (30%).
  • Airports with the highest proportion of leisure passengers were East Midlands (92%), followed by Gatwick and Luton (both 87%).
  • Travellers from Heathrow took a higher proportion of trips (23%) lasting more than two weeks, with London City lowest (3%). Outside London, Manchester had the most (14%).
  • Heathrow had the highest proportion (37%) of connecting passengers, the same proportion as 2012, Gatwick had 9%. All the other airports surveyed had less than 4% connecting passengers, with East Midlands lowest at 1%.
  • Heathrow and London City were the only airports where the majority of passengers were foreign residents (60% and 52%). Inverness had the smallest number (11%).

The CAA's Director of Regulatory Policy, Iain Osborne, said: “Our annual survey data shines a light on the latest passenger trends and needs, providing an invaluable insight for the aviation industry.

“For example, do airports know how few people are being waved off, have they considered why and does this have implications for drop off facilities?

“While there are many excellent viewing facilities at UK airports, our passenger survey data tends to suggest they are not being used that much, and this may highlight a missed commercial opportunity."

* These figures exclude passengers who were using the airport to connect to another flight.

** Figures relate to passenger data at the 13 airports surveyed

Contact information

For media enquiries contact the CAA Press Office on 00 44 (0)207 453 6030 or

You can follow the CAA on Twitter @UK_CAA.

Notes to editors

  1. The 2013 survey forms part of a series, which began in 1968. Their purpose is to help airlines, airport operators and the Government to assess the provision of aviation infrastructure. They are also an important tool for profiling markets and identifying new ones.
  2. Cycles of surveys were undertaken at major UK airports in the periods 1970-1972, 1975-1978, 1982-1987 and 1990-1996. Each cycle covered, by sample, 95% of terminal passengers in the UK and usually surveys were arranged so that airports in the same broad regions were surveyed at the same time.
  3. Following the 1996 survey run at the five London airports, Birmingham, Manchester and four Scottish Airports demand built up for more regular survey data. After a consultation process with all interested parties, it was decided to run the survey continuously at Gatwick, Heathrow and Manchester Airports. Joining these Continuous Survey airports in 2001 were Luton and Stansted. Further information about survey cycles, including results from previous studies can be found on our website.
  4. There are two different passenger survey questionnaires. The main questionnaire has been designed for passengers who have arrived at a UK airport by surface (terminating passengers) or those passengers who are transferring planes having entered the UK (landside transfer). The other questionnaire is for airside connecting passengers, these are passengers transferring to another flight. As the questionnaire for airside passengers is shorter, not all the statistics will include this group.
  5. When weighting the departing passenger survey data, the CAA's Aviation Intelligence team scale the results up to both departing and arriving passengers at a carrier-route level by quarter
  6. The CAA is the UK's specialist aviation regulator. Its activities include: making sure that the aviation industry meets the highest technical and operational safety standards; preventing holidaymakers from being stranded abroad or losing money because of tour operator insolvency; planning and regulating all UK airspace; and regulating airports, air traffic services and airlines and providing advice on aviation policy.