Belfast City hailed as the most punctual UK airport in 2018
George Best Belfast City Airport has been ranked as the best in the UK for punctuality in 2018.
The newly published statistics reveal that scheduled and chartered departures from Belfast City were delayed by an average of eight minutes, the lowest of 24 major airports in the UK.
The Press Association analysis of Civil Aviation Authority data shows that passengers travelling through Belfast International Airport were left waiting almost twice as long.
It ranked joint seventh as one of the worst airports for delays, with an average waiting time of 15 minutes.
Katy Best, commercial director at the City Airport, said that "being ranked the number one UK airport for punctuality performance is great news for the 2.6m passengers" who use the east Belfast facility each year.
"We listen to our customers and work closely with all our partners to ensure a smooth, enjoyable journey through the terminal," she added.
Ms Best said a £15m investment in its facilities has also enhanced passenger experience, with an average security processing time of just six minutes.
A spokesperson for Belfast International Airport described delays as unfortunate and said staff work hard to avoid them.
"With over 60,000 flights per year, Belfast International Airport is one of the UK's top 10 busiest airports.
"While delays are unfortunate, we work closely with our airlines and air traffic control colleagues to ensure these delays are kept to a minimum," they said.
Flights across all featured airports were delayed by an average of 16 minutes in 2018.
London Stansted was the worst UK airport for flight delays last year with an average wait of 25 minutes, which was branded "completely unacceptable" by Rory Boland, editor of consumer magazine Which? Travel.
"These delays aren't just an inconvenience but can leave holidaymakers hundreds of pounds out of pocket because of missed connections, transfers and fines for picking up their hire car late," he said.
"While compensation is available for delays of over three hours, airlines should stop passing the buck and make it easier for their passengers by finally introducing automatic compensation."
The fourth busiest airport in the UK is a hub for a number of low-cost eastern European airlines, as well as being the largest base for Ryanair.
Birmingham and London Luton recorded the joint second worst punctuality performance, with aircraft typically taking off 19 minutes behind schedule.
Liverpool (John Lennon) was in second place for punctuality (10 minutes), followed by Doncaster Sheffield, Exeter and Bournemouth (12 minutes).
A spokesman for London Stansted said Ryanair has committed to a multi-million-pound investment in additional resourcing and equipment to support its ground operation at London Stansted following a "challenging summer" last year, which was helping to deliver "significant" improvements.
Trade body the Airport Operators Association (AOA) said delays are caused by a "range of factors" including last year's blast of cold weather due to the Beast from the East and strikes by air traffic controllers in countries such as France and Belgium.
Disruption was also blamed on the capacity of UK airspace being constrained.
The aviation industry is working with the Department for Transport to modernise the way flights are managed, to improve resilience and boost capacity.