Airline giant IAG slashes losses on Covid recovery

British Airways owner IAG said that net losses more than halved last year, with traffic partially recovering as Covid travel restrictions were lifted.

The loss after tax narrowed sharply to 2.9 billion euros last year, added the group which also owns Spanish carrier Iberia.

That contrasted with a record 6.9 billion euros in 2020 when the coronavirus emergency paralysed air travel and grounded flights worldwide.

Passenger capacity last year was 36 percent of its pre-pandemic 2019 level, but this reached 58 percent in the fourth quarter.

“The easing of government-imposed travel restrictions as the year progressed resulted in improving travel demand, in particular following the opening of the US border to foreign travellers on November 8,” IAG said in a results statement.

Total revenues climbed eight percent to almost 8.5 billion euros.

“We are confident that a strong recovery is underway,” said chief executive Luis Gallego.

“Our teams across the group are taking every opportunity to develop our business while capitalising on the surge in bookings when travel restrictions are lifted.”

Gallego cautioned that IAG will monitor “recent geopolitical events closely to manage any potential impact”, in a reference to possible fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine this week.

The airline conglomerate added that the Omicron Covid variant, which emerged late last year, only had a “negative short term impact” on its performance. 

However, IAG expected a “significant” operating loss for the current first quarter and cited seasonally weak demand, ongoing Omicron uncertainty, and rising costs as capacity ramps up.

The group then anticipates a return to profitability in the second quarter but sounded a cautious note over this outlook.

“This assumes no further setbacks related to Covid-19 and government-imposed travel restrictions or material impact from recent geopolitical developments.”

IAG aims to return to 65 percent of its pre-pandemic passenger capacity in the current first quarter, and 85 percent for the full year.

Source: AFP

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