Late Summer Break Traffic Turmoil

Airport traffic is hitting a summer peak, with congestion around London airports soaring by up to 35 per cent above the worst periods of the summer.


Families going for a last quick break, before school starts in September, are flocking to main airports. Their numbers are swelled by bargain holiday hunters mopping up end-of-season special offers. Analysis of the summer of 2015’s congestion around airports shows that jams on major roads leading to London and Gatwick were around 30% up on the worst of the summer season, including the week the schools broke up.


Last summer, INRIX recorded around 280 congestion incidents on stretches of the M4, M25 and A3113 leading to Heathrow in the week before the August bank holiday. During the week of the schools breaking up (18 July), there were around 210 incidents. On main roads feeding into Gatwick the number of traffic incidents rose to around 130 in the week before the August bank holiday, compared to around 95 in the week the schools went on holiday.

Bank Holiday

Last summer, Gatwick also saw heightened congestion from midday through the afternoon on the Sunday before the bank holiday rush. This suggests a surge in holidaymakers were heading off for a late summer break. People trying to jet off then were also likely to run into day trippers coming back from the coast.

Rush Hour

In summer 2015, roads leading to Heathrow were more consistently busy throughout the week between 6am and 10am and between 2pm and 6pm, periods that would combine with the usual rush hours. However, last summer, the morning rush hour from Wednesday to Friday was a little lighter than earlier in the week.

Clear Warning

“We were surprised to see such a surge in traffic problems around airports in the week leading to the August bank holiday, assuming that the holiday season was likely to be tailing off then,” says Edmund King OBE, AA president.

“There is a clear warning to drivers heading to Gatwick or Heathrow for a ‘last hurrah’ summer holiday or a long bank holiday weekend abroad. They need to build extra time into their journeys to the airport and check traffic conditions before they leave. There is nothing worse than sitting in a traffic jam within sight of the airport, watching the minutes until departure tick away. Other ‘London’ airports such as Luton have also seen an increase in localised congestion with some desperate passengers leaving their taxis to run the last half-mile to the airport.”