The airline blamed “a number of issues specific to the UK” for its record, including airport infrastructure, airspace congestion and timetable restrictions.
It said its ability to keep to time was significantly better on the rest of its network, and also cited “particularly severe winter weather” as a reason for why so many of its UK flights had taken off late.
The delays were exposed by analysis of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) data by the Press Association, which showed there were two UK airlines among the 10 with the poorest punctuality records.
Thomas Cook Airlines and BMI Regional both experienced average delays of 21 minutes.
:: UK airlines’ punctuality records (Civil Aviation Authority, 2017)
- Thomas Cook Airlines – 21.1 minutes
- BMI Regional – 21 minutes
- EasyJet – 18.2 minutes
- Monarch Airlines (ceased trading in October) – 16.4 minutes
- Loganair – 16.2 minutes
- Ryanair – 15.6 minutes
- Flybe – 14.1 minutes
- Virgin Atlantic – 13.3 minutes
- British Airways – 11.5 minutes
- BA CityFlyer – 11.4 minutes
But most of the worst offenders were companies based abroad, with Norwegian Air Shuttle coming in second with flights departing 22 minutes late on average.
But that does not take into account most of its long-haul UK flights, which are operated by a British subsidiary.
Most of its UK flights are short-haul services from Gatwick, Manchester and Edinburgh.
Frequent air traffic control strikes and adverse weather were what the airline put its problems down to.
“We do everything possible to ensure that flights operate to allow passengers to reach their destination as soon as possible,” said a spokesman.
“Norwegian is committed to keep improving punctuality, and where factors are within our direct control we have introduced new measures to continue delivering a smooth, efficient experience for our passengers.”
:: International airlines’ punctuality records (Civil Aviation Authority, 2017)
- Wizz Air – 22.9 minutes
- Norwegian Air Shuttle 21.7 minutes
- Vueling Airlines – 21.1 minutes
- Aurigny Air Services – 20.1 minutes
- Norwegian Air International – 19.3 minutes
- Eurowings – 19.2 minutes
- Turkish Airlines – 19.2 minutes
- Air Portugal – 19.1 minutes
- Eastern Airways – 18.6 minutes
- Blue Air Transport Aerian – 17.2 minutes
The CAA said punctuality was an important factor for passengers when choosing an airline to travel with, and they are entitled to free access to phone calls, emails, meals and refreshments if delayed by more than two hours.
Delays of more than three hours mean passengers can claim hundreds of pounds in compensation – so long as the problems were not caused by “extraordinary circumstances” such as severe weather or a security alert.
Consumer advice magazine Which? has urged airlines to introduce automatic compensation so that their customers do not need to “jump through hoops” to claim back the money they are owed.
Airline association BAR UK has insisted that airlines were “fully engaged” with governments in a bid to minimise disruption outside of their control and improve the experience for passengers.
Chief executive Dale Keller stressed that delays were “extremely costly” to the carriers as well.