Wizz Air was the worst major airline for flight delays from UK airports for the second year in a row, an investigation has found.
The Hungarian carrier’s UK departures were an average of 46 minutes and six seconds behind schedule in 2022, according to analysis of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) data by the PA news agency.
That was more than three times longer than the previous year, when it was also ranked last for punctuality.
Consumer group Which? described the figures as “worrying” and claimed they demonstrate the need for the CAA to be given tougher powers.
Wizz Air operates short-haul flights from eight UK airports including Birmingham, Edinburgh, Gatwick and Luton.
Tui recorded the second worst punctuality last year, with an average delay of 40 minutes and 18 seconds.
This was followed by Qatar Airways (31 minutes and 48 seconds), Turkish Airlines (29 minutes and 30 seconds) and Pegasus Airlines (27 minutes and 18 seconds).
Norwegian Air Shuttle recorded the best performance with an average delay of just 13 minutes and 42 seconds.
The analysis took into account all scheduled and chartered departures from UK airports by airlines with more than 2,500 flights. Cancelled flights were not included.
The average delay for all these flights was 23 minutes.
May and June were the worst months for punctuality as the aviation sector failed to recruit and train enough staff to cope with a surge in demand for holidays following the ending of the UK’s coronavirus travel rules.
Rory Boland, editor of magazine Which? Travel, said: “These figures are worrying, but will be no surprise to passengers who’ve had to endure shoddy treatment from airlines for years.
“With a regulator still lacking the appropriate powers to punish airlines who break the law, including withholding refunds, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that some carriers are simply getting away with leaving passengers high and dry.
“To better protect passengers, the Government must give the CAA effective powers to clamp down on poor airline behaviour, which includes the ability to hand out hefty fines when they continually flout the law.”
The CAA has civil powers to take enforcement action against airlines, but court cases typically take several years to be concluded.
Government proposals to give the regulator more powers were consulted on in early 2022, but no changes have been made.
CAA consumer director Paul Smith claimed “too many passengers faced disappointing levels of delays” last year.
He went on: “The CAA has regularly asked for stronger consumer enforcement powers, including the ability to impose fines on airlines.
“When things do go wrong, we expect airlines to proactively provide passengers with information about their rights when flights are disrupted, as well as offer timely support and assistance.
“We’ve already raised concerns about Wizz Air and are working closely with the airline to improve outcomes for consumers.”
In December 2022, the CAA said it had “significant concerns” about the Hungarian carrier as it was delaying paying refunds and its passengers were far more likely to make escalated complaints than those of other airlines.
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said strong booking levels for flights suggest consumers are “confident that issues have mostly been sorted”.
But he warned that strikes are “causing disruption and I expect those to worsen in the coming months”.
He added: “This may end up an equally difficult and unpredictable year for those expecting smooth journeys on every trip.”
Strikes affecting the aviation sector in recent months include walkouts by security staff at Heathrow, border officials at several airports and Passport Office workers.
A spokesman for trade body Airlines UK said: “The whole industry knows how important punctuality is for customers.
“Last year was not representative due to the late unwinding of Covid restrictions which required a very steep ramp up.
“Since then, the sector has invested huge resources into increased resilience for this summer and we can’t wait to welcome people back for their well-earned breaks.”
Wizz Air did not respond to a request for comment.