In the busiest month for air travel since 2019, the August peak for passengers passing through Manchester Airport is set to be on Sunday. But at London Gatwick, the highest passenger numbers will not arrive for another four weeks.
These are among the findings of an exclusive survey by The Independent of the UK’s leading airports, in a summer where the strains felt by post-Covid aviation are clear.
Last weekend saw departures from Manchester Airport peaking, and Sunday 7 August is predicted to be the busiest for the rest of the summer – with 94,000 passengers passing through, at a rate of above one per second on average.
Nearby Liverpool John Lennon Airport expects its busiest departure day to be Saturday 6 August, with 7,140 passengers taking off, and its busiest day overall to be Sunday 7 August. The Mersey gateway will peak for arrivals on Sunday 28 August, with 7,200.
“Top holiday hotspots will be Palma, Malaga, Alicante, Faro, Barcelona, Jersey, Nice, Rome, Tenerife and Bergerac,” says a spokesperson.
Heathrow, the busiest airport in Europe until the Covid-19 pandemic, has capped outgoing passenger numbers at 100,000 a day until 12 September at the earliest. In 2019, it typically saw between 110,000 and 125,000 daily passenger departures. In terms of inbound travellers, the last few days in August and the beginning of September (up to the fifth) are expected to be the busiest for Heathrow in the month ahead.
Gatwick Airport has capped the number of daily flights during August at 850. The busiest days for arrivals will be 19 August, 26 August and 4 September. Peak days for departures are Friday 2 and Sunday 4 September, with the latter expected to busiest overall.
Monday is not normally an outstandingly busy day for UK airports, but at London Stansted the busiest departure day in expected to be Monday 8 August, with passengers lucky enough to be flying away on three-week breaks coming back on the busiest arrivals day, bank holiday Monday 29 August.
The Essex airport stresses, however, that there are plenty of days where the numbers are high and last-minute bookings could change the picture.
At Luton Airport, top day for arrivals – and busiest overall – is bank holiday Monday, 29 August, with 57,000 passengers passing through.
London City Airport expects to reach 1 million passengers for the summer (July-September), with a sequence of four Thursdays expected to be the busiest: 11, 18 and 25 August, plus 5 September.
Bristol Airport expects an average of 31,000 passengers per day during the next month – with “a very slight increase in the number of departing passengers on the Thursday and Friday [25 and 26 August] before the bank holiday.
A spokesperson for the leading west-of-England hub says: “We expect traffic levels to be maintained in September with traffic reducing in October as some seasonal services finish.”
The busiest day of the week for arrivals and departures at Birmingham Airport is Friday, with the next four – 12, 18 and 26 August plus 2 September – all above 40,000 passengers in total, inbound and outbound.
For the five weeks beginning 8 August, the West Midlands airport predicts more than 1.3 million passengers. Birmingham’s second-busiest day Is Monday, with the bank holiday on 29 August likely to see a peak – and even the week after, on 5 September, high numbers of travellers when other airports are expecting a sharp reduction in passengers.
East Midlands Airport is also expecting a peak of 17,000 passengers on Monday 29 August.
Newcastle Airport says its busiest August day for outbound passengers is today, 5 August, with Friday 26 August expected to be the busiest in terms of inbound and total passengers – around 19,000 in total.
At Scotland’s biggest airport, Edinburgh, Thursdays and Sundays are predicted to be busiest throughout August, with Thursday 25 August the expected peak with 22,286 arriving and 21,224 departing passengers – around 2,500 in total per hour during the normal operating times.
At Glasgow Airport, the highest number of passengers (inbound and outbound) was 28,293 on Friday 15 July.
A spokesperson for Northern Ireland’s biggest airport, Belfast International, said: “We are anticipating Friday 26 August to be the busiest within the next four weeks.”