Reputation Survey: British airports - Heathrow's routes give it the edge

Despite having its reputation damaged when it was brought to a standstill by heavy snowfall in the run-up to Christmas, public opinion of Heathrow remains positive.

Heathrow Airport is the public's favourite UK airport, according to latest research by PRWeek/OnePoll. The results come in the same month that the Competition Commission prepares to announce whether airport operator BAA should be forced to sell Stansted and either Edinburgh or Glasgow airports.

Heathrow, which turns 65 this year, won 23 per cent of the vote, followed by Manchester Airport with 20 per cent and London Gatwick with 19 per cent. Heathrow was also named the best airport for customer service, just ahead of Manchester and Gatwick, in addition to having the best amenities.

A further 59 per cent said Heathrow was their preferred airport for business travel, while Manchester took the honours as the favourite airport for leisure travel.

Despite a raft of new Twitter services that have been launched at UK airports, 55 per cent of respondents said they would not use the service. A further 24 per cent said they would only use it in an emergency.

A majority 70 per cent of people said that PR events such as author Alain de Botton's week in residence at Heathrow would not change their opinion of an airport.

Only 27 per cent of respondents said the introduction of full body scanners in UK airports was a bad idea. Forty-six per cent said it made flying safer and 27 per cent believed it sped up the security process.

Survey of 3,000 members of the public who fly once a year or more conducted by global research agency OnePoll

HOW I SEE IT - DAVID EZRA, DIRECTOR, SALTMARSH PARTNERSHIP

The statistics show that public perception of airports is shaped not by customer service, facilities or clever marketing, but by simple practicalities.

Choice of destination, accessibility, price and short queues are what travellers really care about - making Gatwick's recent radio campaign to promote its retail offering appear as money badly spent.

What irritated respondents most can be summed up in one word: inconvenience. Long queues, flight delays, having to arrive hours before departure - no-one likes hanging around. In this context, travellers probably do not much care who owns the airport - until there is a problem. BAA's public profile grew when it became the media whipping boy for December's snow chaos; its potential forced sale of Stansted is less interesting.

Whether for business or leisure, the survey shows that passengers simply want to get through the airport quickly, board the aircraft and be on their way. Airport operators take note.

SCANNING PREFERRED

69% of respondents said they would prefer to have a full body scan rather than a pat down while going through security

BUSINESS TRIPS

59% named Heathrow as the best airport for business travel

FRUSTRATION

53% said long queues for security and check-in, and flight delays were the biggest cause of irritation at airports

Which airport ... do you have the best opinion of overall? %
London Heathrow 23.5
London Gatwick 19
London Stansted 10
Manchester 20.5
Birmingham 6.5
Other (incl Edinburgh, Glasgow and Bristol) 20.5

Which airport ... has the best customer service?
London Heathrow 21
London Gatwick 19
London Stansted 10
Manchester 20
Birmingham 7
Other (incl Edinburgh, Glasgow and Bristol) 23

Which airport ... has the best amenities (shops, bars etc)?
London Heathrow 44
London Gatwick 20
London Stansted 6
Manchester 15.5
Birmingham 4
Other (incl Edinburgh, Glasgow and Bristol) 10.5

Which airport ... is your favourite for leisure travel?
London Heathrow 23.5
London Gatwick 20
London Stansted 10
Manchester 24
Birmingham 9
Other (incl Edinburgh, Glasgow and Bristol) 13.5

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