Flight statistics

How do Brits choose to fly?

The freedom and ease of air travel has made it the most popular option for Brits looking to travel abroad. With the number of Brits flying in 2018 being over 77 million and exceeding the UK population, air travel has never been more popular.

Quick facts

  • In 2018, over 77 million Brits took to the skies.
  • Air travel made up 85% of visits abroad by UK travellers in 2018.
  • The number of flights taken for the purpose of going on holiday has increased by 40% since 2010.

Number of flights by travel purpose

The graph below shows that leisure is the number one reason that Brits fly.

Purpose Number of visits
Holiday 39.8mill
Holiday as part of inclusive tour 16.5mill
Visiting friends or relatives 14.4mill
Business 5.4mill
Miscellaneous 0.8mill
Brits flying to go on holiday make up almost three quarters (73%) of all air travellers, making leisure the most popular reason for air travel. Outside of leisure, 7% of Brits are flying for business, and almost a fifth (19%) of people are flying for the purpose of visiting friends and relatives.

The number of holiday flights over time

As well as holidays being the most popular reason for flying, the number of holidays being taken by air travel is increasing.

Year Number of holiday trips by air
2010 28.4mill
2011 28.8mill
2012 28.6mill
2013 29.7mill
2014 31mill
2015 34.5mill
2016 38.2mill
2017 39.7mill
2018 40mill

From 2010 to 2018, the number of flights taken for the purpose of going on holiday increased by 40%. The greatest increase in flight numbers was between 2014 and 2015 when flight numbers increased by 11%.

A recent study asked respondents to list which airlines they had booked flights with in the past 12 months. Some respondents reported that they had flown with more than one airline during this time.

Airline Percentage
easyJet 44%
British Airways 29%
Ryanair 28%
Jet2 16%
Thomas Cook 10%
Flybe 9%
Emirates 8%
Virgin Atlantic 8%
TUIfly 6%
Wizz Air 5%
Lufthansa 4%
Norwegian 4%
Eurowings 2%
Aer Lingus 2%
Vueling 2%
Other 16%
easyJet proved to be the most popular airline, with almost half (44%) of all people replying that they had flown with the airline in the last year. Following this, British Airways and Ryanair were both included in almost a third of the overall responses (29% and 28%, respectively). The remaining airlines had 16% or fewer positive responses.

The majority (55%) of people surveyed booked flights directly through the airline’s website as opposed to with a flight comparison website.

Provider Percentage
Directly with the airline 55%
Skyscanner 34%
Expedia 28%
Tripadvisor 11%
Cheapflights 11%
Kayak 10%
lastminute 9%
Google Flights 8%
Travel Supermarket 7%
Opodo 4%
CheapTickets.com 4%
momondo 3%
Priceline 3%
Travelocity 3%
cheapOair 2%
hotwire 2%
Orbitz 2%
Hipmunk 1%
Other 19%
Of the comparison sites, Skyscanner was the most used, with 34% of people choosing to book flights this way. Expedia was the next most popular, with 28% of responses. The next five most popular sites each had around 10% of respondents choosing them.

Number of passengers

Heathrow is a clear frontrunner in terms of size, with over 80 million passengers being handled in 2018. Manchester is approaching 30 million passengers per year, and is the only airport outside of London to crack the top five. Belfast comes in as the 10th busiest airport, seeing over 6 million passengers pass through every year.
Airport Passengers
Belfast 6,268,960
Bristol 8,699,529
Glasgow 9,656,227
Birmingham 12,457,051
Edinburgh 14,294,305
Luton 16,769,634
Stansted 27,996,116
Manchester 28,292,797
Gatwick 46,086,089
Heathrow 80,124,537

Aircraft movements

An aircraft movement is defined as a takeoff or landing, and it is no surprise that Heathrow leads the way again with almost 500,000 each year. In fact the only difference in the order above is Stanstead, which climbs above Manchester in terms of aircraft movements (201,614 v 201,247), despite welcoming slightly fewer passengers each year.
Airport Aircraft movements
Belfast 60,541
Bristol 72,927
Glasgow 97,157
Birmingham 111,828
Edinburgh 130,016
Luton 136,511
Stansted 201,614
Manchester 201,247
Gatwick 283,919
Heathrow 477,604

Airport facilities and statistics

Here are all the statistics you could ever need on the UK’s 10 busiest airports. You may be going away soon and want to check the lounge situation at the airport you’re flying from, or perhaps you’re just curious to see how many destinations each airport flies to?
Features
Runways 2
Airlines 84
Gates 231
Most popular destination New York (JFK)
Fast track £12.50
Lounges 12: One free, the rest £24.99-£50.00
Number of sockets available 3,050 power plugs
Seats and rest zones Plenty
Wi-Fi Free, unlimited
Shops 79
Restaurants/cafés 37
Hotels 6
Features
Runways 2
Airlines 50
Gates 115
Most popular destination Barcelona
Fast track Passport control: £9.99. Security: £5
Lounges 7, £21-£38
Number of sockets available Plenty
Seats and rest zones Plenty
Wi-Fi 90 minutes free
Shops 39
Restaurants/cafés 32
Hotels 6
Features
Runways 2
Airlines 56
Most popular destination Amsterdam
Fast track Passport control: £7 Security: £6
Lounges 2, £21-£30
Number of sockets available Few
Seats and rest zones Plenty
Wi-Fi 4 hours free
Shops 26
Restaurants/cafés 27
Hotels 16
Features
Runways 1
Airlines 22
Gates 88
Most popular destination Dublin
Fast track From £8
Lounges 1, from £25
Number of sockets available Few
Seats and rest zones Poor
Wi-Fi 4 hours free
Shops 22
Restaurants/cafés 20
Hotels 10
Features
Runways 1
Airlines 11
Gates 28
Most popular destination Amsterdam
Fast track Security: £6
Lounges 1, £22.49-£50
Number of sockets available 440
Seats and rest zones Limited
Wi-Fi 4 hours free
Shops 23
Restaurants/cafés 16
Hotels 4
Features
Runways 2
Airlines 37
Destinations 157
Most popular destination Amsterdam
Fast track From £5
Lounges 2, from £25.99
Number of sockets available Plenty
Seats and rest zones Limited
Wi-Fi 2 hours for free
Shops 23
Restaurants/cafés 15
Hotels 5
Features
Runways 1
Airlines 50
Destinations 143
Most popular destination Dublin
Fast track Passport control £5, Security £3.75
Lounges 4, £24.99-£34
Number of sockets available Limited
Seats and rest zones Limited
Wi-Fi Free
Shops 23
Restaurants/cafés 13
Hotels 6
Features
Runways 1
Airlines 30
Destinations 101
Most popular destination Amsterdam
Fast track Security: £4.99
Lounges 2, £23-£40
Number of sockets available Plenty
Seats and rest zones Plenty, frowned upon passengers sleeping
Wi-Fi 1 hour free
Shops 18
Restaurants/cafés 14
Hotels 5
Features
Runways 1
Airlines 13
Destinations 125
Most popular destination Palma
Fast track Security: £3.95
Lounges 2, £22.99-£34.99
Number of sockets available Limited
Seats and rest zones Limited
Wi-Fi 2 hours free
Shops 9
Restaurants/cafés 8
Hotels 12
Features
Runways 2
Airlines 7
Most popular destination Alicante
Fast track Priority security £4
Lounges 1, £27.50
Number of sockets available Limited
Seats and rest zones Poor, none
Wi-Fi 2 hours free
Shops 6
Restaurants/cafés 10
Hotels 1

Sources

Statista
Heathrow Airport
Gatwick Airport
Manchester Airport
Stansted Airport
Luton Airport
Edinburgh Airport
Birmingham Airport
Glasgow Airport
Bristol Airport
Belfast Airport
CAA

Office for National Statistics

Click here for more research. For all media enquiries, please contact:

Matt Mckenna
UK communications manager
T: +44 20 8191 8806
matt.mckenna@finder.com@MichHutchison/in/matthewmckenna2

Related articles

Airport statistics

Airport statistics

The top 11 busiest airports in the UK look after a huge 252.2 million passengers per year. We decided to look into how they compare.

Read more…
11 of the best ways to score a flight upgrade

11 of the best ways to score a flight upgrade

See how the other half live, without paying for it. Check out these tips on how to get an upgrade for less on your next flight.

Read more…
Flights to Malta

Flights to Malta

We’ve put together the best flight deals and the need-to-know information to get your trip to Malta started.

Read more…
Flights to New Zealand

Flights to New Zealand

Flights to New Zealand are not cheap, so use this guide to help find the best deal for your holiday.

Read more…
Cheap flights to Dubai

Cheap flights to Dubai

Find low fares and deals on flights from the UK to Dubai.

Read more…
Flights to Rome

Flights to Rome

Rome flights and airport tips to help you get into holiday mode without all of the fuss and worry.

Read more…

More guides on Finder

  • New Year’s resolutions

    A recent survey from Finder has found that in 2022, 54% of the UK population – or 28 million Brits – will be making a New Year’s resolution.

  • Boxing Day shopping and spending statistics UK

    Which brand received the most search traffic from UK shoppers during one of the biggest retail days of the year? We’ve done some analysis on the search figures to find the brand took the crown.

  • NFT stats

    Finder polled over 28,000 people in an online survey across 20 countries to compare NFT ownership and found the UK ranks 2nd last for NFT adoption.

  • Volvo V60 insurance group

    Find out which insurance group the Volvo V60 falls under and how much it costs to insure.

  • Chrysler Ypsilon insurance group

    Find out which insurance group the Chrysler Ypsilon falls under and how much it costs to insure.

  • Lotus Elise insurance group

    Find out which insurance group the Lotus Elise falls under and how much it costs to insure.

  • Volkswagen Bora insurance group

    Find out which insurance group the Volkswagen Bora falls under and how much it costs to insure.

  • Skoda Roomster insurance group

    Find out which insurance group the Skoda Roomster falls under and how much it costs to insure.

  • Smart Fortwo insurance group

    Find out which insurance group the Smart Fortwo falls under and how much it costs to insure.

  • Kia Sedona insurance group

    Find out which insurance group the Kia Sedona falls under and how much it costs to insure.

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on finder.com:

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder.com provides guides and information on a range of products and services. Because our content is not financial advice, we suggest talking with a professional before you make any decision.

By submitting your comment or question, you agree to our Privacy and Cookies Policy and Terms of Use.

Questions and responses on finder.com are not provided, paid for or otherwise endorsed by any bank or brand. These banks and brands are not responsible for ensuring that comments are answered or accurate.
Go to site