Vueling Airlines has the worst punctuality of major airlines flying from UK airports, an investigation has found.
The Spanish carrier’s UK departures were 31 minutes late on average in 2018, according to analysis of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) data.
Thomas Cook Airlines was found to have the second worst performance with flights typically 24 minutes late, followed by Wizz Air (23 minutes), Norwegian Air UK (22 minutes) and Eurowings (22 minutes).
Norwegian Air UK is a British subsidiary of Norwegian Air Shuttle, operating transatlantic flights from Gatwick Airport.
Cathay Pacific Airways is the most punctual airline, with aircraft typically taking off just eight minutes behind schedule. The average delay across all flights was 16 minutes.
The ranking features the 43 airlines with more than 2,000 flights from UK airports last year.
Average delay figures take into account every flight that operated, including those that were on time. Cancelled services are excluded from the CAA data.
Strikes by air traffic controllers caused havoc for airlines last summer.
A spokesman for Vueling, which serves several UK airports including Heathrow, Gatwick, Edinburgh and Birmingham, said the low-cost airline’s punctuality was “hugely affected” by industrial action in France. He went on: “There were 22 strike days at Marseille last summer.
“During these strikes, Vueling flights to and from Barcelona and the UK could not fly straight across France but instead flew south of the Pyrenees and into the Atlantic before looping back towards Britain.
“All airlines have been affected by air traffic control issues in Europe, but the location of Vueling’s (Barcelona) hub close to Marseille means it has been particularly badly affected.”
He said the airline has taken measures to mitigate against the impact of further ATC issues, such as allocating up to ten spare aircraft to operate flights during disruption.
Vueling’s parent company is International Airlines Group, which also owns British Airways.
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of trade body Airlines UK, said too many flights are affected by the country’s “antiquated airspace”.
He added: “We support government in its efforts to introduce much-needed modernisation so we can continue to safely and effectively accommodate the ever rising demand for air travel.”