Survey ranks 10 most stressful airports in Europe

Posted on 21 May 2024 By Savanna Douglas

New research from Preply has analysed 25 of Europe’s biggest airports to reveal which are the most stressful for travellers.

An estimated 1.19 billion passengers travelled through Europe’s largest airports in 2023, and whether we’re navigating security rules or flight delays, getting through an airport can be a frustrating experience. But, which are deemed the most stressful for travellers?

New research from Preply has analyzed 25 of Europe’s biggest airports, to determine which offer the worst experience for passengers. The study has looked at factors such as Google review scores, ‘stressful’ reviews, lost luggage queries, as well punctuality, and the number of passengers passing through each airport.

Revealed: The 15 most stressful airports in Europe

Rank Country Country Google review score (out of 5) No. of Google reviews mentioning ‘stressful’ Annual Google searches for lost luggage % of flights that leave on time Driving distance to the city centre (kms) Avg. passenger traffic per day in peak season Airport Stress Score
1 Heathrow Airport UK 4.0 78 34,700 65.74% 25.4 216,854 6.40
2 Manchester Airport UK 3.0 138 9,180 66.11% 14.5 77,009 5.44
3 Gatwick Airport UK 3.8 41 8,470 62.17% 82.6 112,048 5.40
4 Charles de Gaulle Airport France 3.6 64 1,140 65.03% 36.1 184,716 5.16
5 London Stansted Airport UK 3.3 87 1,630 67.49% 65.7 76,617 5.14
6 Istanbul Airport Turkey 4.4 12 280 61.81% 48.9 208,868 4.38
7 Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport Italy 4.2 12 2,260 56.94% 52.0 111,083 4.11
8 Berlin Brandenburg Airport Germany 3.1 40 520 n/a 28.8 63,211 3.76
9 Oslo Airport Norway 4.3 3 900 53.86% 48.8 68,898 3.57
10 Amsterdam Airport Schiphol Netherlands 4.0 44 5,350 76.58% 21.4 169,561 3.53
11 Palma de Mallorca Airport Spain 4.2 10 230 58.41% 43.9 85,222 3.50
12 Josep Tarradellas Barcelona–El Prat Airport Spain 4.0 16 8,470 67.50% 14.2 136,738 3.48
13 Orly Airport France 3.6 2 0 63.52% 17.3 88,477 3.23
14 Frankfurt am Main Airport Germany 3.9 39 2,910 77.54% 13.3 162,629 3.19
15 Munich Airport Germany 4.1 13 3,410 68.03% 35.3 101,471 3.16


Unsplash / Artur Tumasjan


Heathrow Airport is the most stressful airport in Europe with 34,700 lost luggage search queries each year on Google

Taking the crown as the most stressful airport in Europe is Heathrow, with an “Airport Stress Score” of 6.4. Heathrow witnesses over 34,700 lost luggage search queries each year on Google and the highest passenger traffic of nearly 217K a day in peak season. 

78 reviews have mentioned Heathrowing being “stressful” with Traveller’s expressing their dissatisfaction with queues, rude staff and long delays at Heathrow.

Manchester is named the second most stressful airport in Europe with low traveller ratings of 3 out of 5

Manchester ranks second with a high “Airport Stress Score” of 5.44. The airport has a Google review score of just 3 out of 5, which is the lowest of all airports in the study. 138 reviews specifically mention how stressful the airport is, and Emma W writes, “Security is nothing but stressful, chaotic, and unsafe. Huge queues, frustrated passengers and staff alike.

It’s also not guaranteed that your belongings will arrive safe and sound at Manchester, as the airport has seen 9,180 Google searches for queries around lost luggage over the past year. It’s also a very busy airport, with an average of 77K passengers travelling through each day.

Gatwick Airport rounds up the top three most complained about airports with only 62% of flights departing on time

Rounding off the top three most stressful airports in Europe is Gatwick, with an “Airport Stress Score” of 5.40. It sees 8,470 searches for lost luggage every year, and the drive to reach London’s city centre is around 48 km. 

Only 62% of flights depart on time at Gatwick, so be prepared for long wait times and delays. One traveller, Andrew K wrote in her Google review “Unfortunately, Gatwick is an unreliable airport and departing flights are very often delayed. Every time I fly, my flight is delayed between 30 minutes to 2 hours on average mainly due to airport problems.”

Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport is Europe’s most complained about airport outside of the UK

Outside of the UK, which dominates the top 5, Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport in France ranks as the fourth most stressful airport. Over one-third (35%) of all flights from the airport are delayed, and it’s extremely busy, with around 184,716 passengers passing through each day in peak season. 

There are also 64 Google reviews mentioning how stressful the airport is, including one from Rick D who says, “Worst airport in the world!! So slow and inefficient, hair-pulling disorganisation, it’s like they go out of their way to make everything as painful and stressful as possible!!

Zurich Airport is the least stressful airport in Europe, with 77.33% of flights departing on time

On the other end of the scale, Zurich airport has ranked as the least stressful airport in Europe with an “Airport Stress Score” of 1.56. 77.33% of departures from this airport are on time, the highest out of all the airports studied.

Malaga airport ranked as the second least stressful airport in Europe with an “Airport Stress Score” of 1.67. It is one of the quietest large airports in Europe, seeing just 61,217 passengers travelling through per day during peak season — the lowest of all airports included in the study. 

Athens International Airport rounded off the top three least stressful airports with an “Airport Stress Score” of 2.05, thanks to a review score of 4.4 out of 5 and only 12 mentions of the airport being “stressful”.

Unsplash / Daria Volkova

Expert reveals how travellers can limit “airport anxiety” 

While some airports can provide a more stressful environment than others, many travellers can experience ‘airport anxiety’ wherever they fly from. Licensed Psychotherapist, Topsie VandenBosch, overcame airport anxiety herself using these five useful tips.


To overcome airport anxiety, gradually expose yourself to the flying experience. Start by flying on shorter flights, gradually working up to longer flights. This exposure technique can help desensitise you to how anxiety-inducing air travel can be.

Seek advice from frequent flyers

Engage in conversations with people who fly frequently and ask them about their strategies for managing anxiety. Learning from the experiences of seasoned travellers can provide you with valuable insights and practical coping techniques that you may not have considered before. And honestly- validate your experiences and help you feel less alone.

Use visualisation techniques

In the weeks leading up to your flight, practice visualising yourself at your destination, enjoying your time there. Make the visualisation detailed-  imagining the sights, sounds, and sensations associated with your travel plans. This technique can help shift your focus from anxiety as a solely negative experience to reframing it as positive anticipation and excitement for your upcoming trip.

Sensory comfort items

Pack items that engage your senses and remind you of your destination or bring you comfort. This could include a beach-themed novel, a soothing scented lotion, or a playlist of songs that evoke positive emotions. Engaging your senses with items that excite or calm you can help regulate your anxiety levels.

Nervous system regulation

In the two weeks before your flight, be mindful of activities that may dysregulated your nervous system. Reduce the amount of time you spend in activities that over-stimulate you- such as consuming excessive caffeine or alcohol, watching horror movies or thrillers, or exposing yourself to stressful situations. Instead, prioritise calming practices that soothe you- such as gentle yoga or spending time outside.

Feature Image: Unsplash / Anete Lusina

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