• Busiest summer period ever as the number of passengers passing through UK airport terminals in Q3 (Jul to Sep) 2015 hit a new peak of over 78m and rolling 12 month passenger total passes 250m for the first time ever.
  • Number of commercial flights in Q3 grew by 2.5 per cent year-on-year, but still nine per cent down on 2007 peak. Larger and fuller aircraft are accommodating the strong passenger numbers.
  • On time performance at UK airports was three percentage points down in Q3 and average delay rose by one minute across the 24 UK airports covered by the CAA's assessment.
  • Figures are revealed in the CAA's latest Aviation Trends report, which provides detailed analysis of the UK aviation industry every quarter. The CAA has also produced an infographic summarising the data.

UK airports recorded their busiest summer period ever in 2015 as terminals handled more than 78 million passengers - making this the strongest Q3 ever recorded.

This represents a 5.5 per cent rise from the 74m passengers recorded in Q3 2014. All passenger markets have grown in Q3 with European destinations seeing a 6.4 per cent rise, domestic markets up 5.7 per cent and rest of the world markets up 1.4 per cent.

The Q3 results means each of the first three quarters in 2015 have all been the strongest for passenger numbers since records began.

Furthermore the rolling 12 month (Oct 12014 to Sep 2015) total of 250m also breaks the previous record, which was set in the previous quarter (Q2 2015) at 247m.

Commercial flights** for Q3 2015 have also seen a 2.5 per cent year-on-year increase, now at 592,000 flights.  Scheduled passenger flight growth in Q3 was driven by London airports, up 4.8 per cent and regional airports up one per cent, however charter flights in both London and the regions dropped, by 3.6 per cent and 0.2 per cent respectively.

Flight punctuality

The strong growth in passenger and commercial flight numbers have been accompanied by a reduction in on-time performance for scheduled passenger flights.  In Q3 2015, on-time performance fell by three percentage points, from 76 per cent to 73 per cent, across all 24 airports*** when compared with Q3 2014. London airports dropped from 73 per cent in Q3 2014 to 69 per cent in Q3 2015. Regional airports dropped from 80 per cent to 77 per cent. Average delay per flight across the 24 monitored airports was 15 minutes for Q3 2015. This represented an increase of one minute against the same quarter in 2014.

Commenting on the figures, Tim Johnson, CAA Policy Director, said:

“The first three quarters in 2015 have been the strongest for passenger numbers since records began.

“Airlines are accommodating the continuing strong passenger demand by carrying the extra passengers on larger aircraft, rather than increasing the number of flights significantly.

“However, punctuality was the worst of any summer period since 2010 - something we know many passengers will have found frustrating and an issue airlines, airports and air traffic control services should work to address.

“The strong passenger demand and a drop in punctuality also underlines the importance of addressing the ongoing pressures on runway capacity in the South East and the need to modernise the UK's airspace.”

Aviation trends

The latest passenger number and punctuality figures are contained in the CAA's Aviation Trends documents, which is produced quarterly, and includes detailed analysis of both London and regional airports. The document also contains information relating to air cargo tonnes carried to and from UK airports.

Media enquiries

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

You can also follow the CAA on Twitter @UK_CAA.

Notes to editors

* UK airports, includes those on the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.

** Commercial flights include air traffic to and from UK oil rigs.

*** In April 2015 the CAA increased the number of airports it reported on from 10 to 24. These are: Aberdeen; Belfast City; Belfast International; Birmingham; Bournemouth; Bristol; Cardiff; Doncaster Sheffield; Durham Tees Valley; East Midlands; Edinburgh;  Exeter; Gatwick; Glasgow; Heathrow; Jersey; Liverpool, Leeds Bradford; London City; Luton; Manchester; Newcastle; Stansted and Southampton.  This has now increased to 25 with the addition of London Southend, however London Southend will not feature in the figures until Q3 2015.

  1. The Aviation Trends series is available at  www.caa.co.uk/aviationtrends. Please note that historic numbers may be subject to minor change as the result of prior period adjustments. Due to rounding of figures, there may be an apparent slight discrepancy between the sum of the constituent items and the total as shown.
  2. For a list of all statistics available on the CAA website, see www.caa.co.uk/statistics.
  3. 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 from an economic standpoint.
  4. Tables containing more punctuality information are below:

Punctuality notes to editors

  1.  On-time performance and delay are calculated from the scheduled on-stand time (provided by Airport Co-ordination Ltd.), the reported runway time (provided by the airport) and the expected time an aircraft takes to travel between a stand and the runway (this taxi time is estimated using historic data).
  2. An 'on-time' flight is defined as departing or arriving at a UK airport either early or up to and including 15 minutes late.
  3. Average delay is the total minutes of delay recorded by all flights (with early arriving flights counted as zero delay) divided by the total number of flights monitored.
  4. Delay is recorded as the difference between an aircraft's scheduled and actual arrival or departure time at the airport terminal. It does not therefore measure any delay, such as that due to congestion, which has already been allowed for in the planned flight times of the service. Delays can occur for a variety of reasons. Operating circumstances, both within and without the airline's control, also vary by route and by type of service.
  5. The statistics cover only those flights which were operated; they do not cover those flights which were cancelled. Some airport or airline business models prioritise delaying flights rather than cancelling them outright.