British Airways’ parent ramps up flight capacity but losses spiral to £1.7 billion

Flight schedules are being ramped up by British Airways’ parent company IAG as the group looks to reduce its cash burn amid the turbulence caused by the pandemic.

The firm is planning to operate around 45 per cent of passenger capacity between July and September compared with the same period in 2019. That is up from just 21.9 per cent during the previous three months.

Releasing its latest results, IAG warned that its plans to increase flight numbers “remain uncertain and subject to ongoing review”.

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It added that it “continues to be adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic together with government restrictions and quarantine requirements”.

British Airways flight BA9170E, a Boeing 747 aircraft with the registration number G-CIVD, departs from Heathrow Airport heading for Spain, as the airline last year began the final phase of retiring its 747 fleet. Picture: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

Chief executive Luis Gallego told investors: “In the short term, our focus is on ensuring our operational readiness, so we have the flexibility to capitalise on an environment where there’s evidence of widespread pent-up demand when travel restrictions are lifted.

“We know that recovery will be uneven, but we’re ready to take advantage of a surge in air travel demand in line with increasing vaccination rates.

“We welcome the recent announcement that fully-vaccinated travellers from amber countries in the EU and the US will no longer have to quarantine upon arrival in the UK. We see this as an important first step in fully reopening the transatlantic travel corridor.”

Reported operating loss for the half year amounted to just over €2 billion (£1.7bn).

Meanwhile, IAG Cargo, the cargo division of International Airlines Group, reported strong second-quarter revenue amid a confident outlook for the business with an improved air-cargo market.

Mark Crouch, an analyst at investment platform eToro, said: “Conditions are improving slightly for airlines, but the immediate outlook remains bleak. While short haul demand is improving, it will be some time before long haul demand returns to pre-Covid levels.

“Given British Airways – primarily a long-haul carrier – is IAG’s main revenue driver, it probably means we can expect quite a few more painful updates.

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“That said, there is light at the end of the runway. The UK’s plan to allow fully vaccinated citizens from amber countries in the EU and the US without having to quarantine is what the airline industry has been calling out for.”

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