Cardiff Airport has been named the worst terminal for passenger experience in a new survey of the UK’s small airports.
The Which? airport passenger survey reveals smaller airports are, on average, outperforming larger ones in terms of passenger satisfaction.
The Welsh Government-owned terminal, however, was ranked equal last in a league table of airports with fewer than four million passengers a year.
Cardiff scored 52%, joint last with Glasgow Prestwick, while London Southend (84%), Humberside (81%) and Sheffield’s Robin Hood airports (78%) topped the table.
The Rhoose terminal only scored one star for food outlets, shops and facilities and two stars for airport environment and toilets.
It was awarded three stars for speed of check-in, airport security, airport design and information and navigation – but was behind most small airports in these areas too.
In June, Which? asked its members to complete an survey about their experience of flying from a UK airport in the past year. More than 11,500 people responded, including 107 Cardiff Airport passengers.
Cardiff ranked more favourably compared to the large airports, scoring the same as London Gatwick South Terminal (52%) and ahead of Stanstead (50%), Belfast (48%) and Luton (43%). It was also ranked above the Heathrow terminals, except T5.
A Which? spokesman said: “Cardiff, like other small airports, scored poorly for food and shopping outlets but is competing with major airports on speed of check-in, standards of security and queues at passport control.”
Cardiff Airport chief executive Jon Horne said: “The areas they’ve highlighted are probably not a great surprise in terms of overall airport environment scoring relatively low, as do food outlets and shops.
“These are all areas we are looking at, having taken over the airport at the end of March.
“We have been doing a root and branch review and went out to our audience to ask them their thoughts about the airport.”
Mr Horne said Cardiff’s own survey, which is being analysed, was completed by 700 passengers and would give a better picture of the areas needed for improvement.
“Although we’re not hitting the point we would like to, we’ve clearly identified the areas where we know change will bring improvement and we’re working on those things at the moment,” he said.
“We recognise that all of those elements that go to make-up the airport experience are an important part of how we are attractive, not just the range of services and the prices that are available to people.”
Conservatives transport spokesman Byron Davies said it showed Cardiff was failing to make the most of its strategic advantages as a small airport.
“Instead of being a tiresome necessity, travelling through an airport could be a pleasurable part of the holiday experience, which Cardiff could tap into, by aspiring to deliver the highest standards of customer care,” he said.
“It is nearly six months since the Labour Welsh Government bought Cardiff Airport and we are yet to hear what, if any, progress has been made, as taxpayers who footed the bill will rightly want to know if their investment was worth the £52m.”
Eluned Parrott, Liberal Democrats transport spokeswoman, added: “There is a real opportunity for smaller airports such as Cardiff to offer passengers a friendlier and more personal service, which is something huge airports like Heathrow struggle to offer.
“Sadly, a combination of the loss of services and lack of investment over a period of years means that the airport is a shadow of what it could be. However, I do hope to see its fortunes turn around so it can become the kind of international gateway Wales needs.”