British Airways owner IAG hit by €1.2bn loss amid ‘uncertain’ passenger forecast

International Airlines Group reiterates need for rollout of Covid vaccine passports

The owner of British Airways, International Airlines Group, racked up a loss of €1.2bn over the first three months of this year and has repeated its call for the rollout of digital vaccine passports to enable the beleaguered aviation industry to get passengers back in the skies.

IAG said passenger capacity slumped to less than a fifth of pre-pandemic levels in the first quarter of 2021, and it expects only a slight improvement in the second quarter to 25% of 2019 levels.

The airline group – which also owns Vueling, Aer Lingus and Iberia – made a €1.8bn (£1.6bn) pre-tax loss in the first quarter last year, said its forecast on passenger numbers remains “uncertain and subject to review”.

Luis Gallego, the chief executive of IAG, said: “We’re doing everything in our power to emerge in a stronger competitive position. We’re absolutely confident that a safe restart to travel can happen as shown by the scientific data. We’re ready to fly but government action is needed.”

Gallego called for four measures including restriction-free travel corridors between countries, “affordable, simple and proportionate” testing to replace quarantine, “contactless” transit through airports and digital health passes and vaccine documentation.

“These measures will enable a safe reopening of our skies,” he said.

Gallego urged the UK and US to open up a “travel corridor” on the lucrative transatlantic route: “We have the conditions, similar high vaccination rates. It is key for the economy of this country to open that corridor as soon as possible. It’s an important market where scientific data supports what we are saying.”

Sean Doyle, the BA chief executive said: “The UK has a very low rate of infection and very high rate of vaccination, yet UK travellers cannot enter and many travellers from other countries can. We would urge the US administration to look at this through a scientific method. But the starting point as well would be for the UK to put the US on the green list.”

Doyle said the airline believes vaccinated people should be able to travel without any other testing requirements, for green list countries. While the price of PCR tests for travellers was coming down, he added: “We’d encourage the government to alleviate the number of tests, so the framework can be more accessible and affordable when reviewed towards the end of June.”

IAG cut its weekly costs to €175m a week in the first quarter and passenger revenues plunged by 88% in the first quarter to €459m. In the same period last year, passenger revenues were €3.9bn.

Sign up to the daily Business Today email or follow Guardian Business on Twitter at @BusinessDesk

The company said its cargo operation enabled it to operate a “more extensive passenger long-haul network”. IAG operated 1,306 cargo-only flights in the first three months, which generated €350m in revenue, a 42% year-on-year increase and a record for the first quarter. In the final three months of last year, IAG operated 969 cargo-only flights.

“Given the uncertainty over the timing of the lifting of government travel restrictions and the continued impact and duration of Covid-19, IAG is not providing profit guidance for 2021,” the company said.

Gallego added: “The government needs to be ambitious in getting back on track. It’s crucial for everyone to fly during the summer. For that, we need to know in advance, in order to sell.”

IAG shares slipped slightly to 206p, up from 91p last autumn, but still sharply down on their 440p level just before the pandemic struck in January 2020.


Mark Sweney and Gwyn Topham

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
British Airways owner IAG hit by record €7.4bn loss
Group calls for passenger digital health passes to ‘reopen skies’ as Covid takes toll

Mark Sweney and Gwyn Topham

26, Feb, 2021 @8:12 AM

Article image
BA owner raises profit forecast as travel demand rebounds
IAG expects to fly almost the same passenger numbers this year as before Covid pandemic

Jasper Jolly and Gwyn Topham

05, May, 2023 @7:54 AM

Article image
British Airways owner upgrades profits forecast by 20%
IAG puts expected £1.6bn-plus profit down to falling oil price, more fuel-efficient planes and extra capacity

Gwyn Topham and Angela Monaghan

27, Feb, 2015 @11:46 PM

Article image
British Airways owner calls for breaking up Heathrow monopoly
Create competition to run terminals when third runway is built to keep airfares low, IAG tells government

Gwyn Topham

05, Feb, 2018 @12:03 AM

Article image
BA owner says US flights nearly full but warns of €3bn loss
IAG pins hopes on reopening of US border to foreign nationals next week, saying it is a ‘pivotal moment’

Gwyn Topham and Mark Sweney

05, Nov, 2021 @4:08 PM

Article image
BA owner ‘worried’ over Heathrow’s readiness for summer
IAG returns to profit, making £1.1bn in 2022, as travel industry bounces back from Covid

Gwyn Topham and Mark Sweney

24, Feb, 2023 @1:53 PM

Article image
British Airways owner considering bid for transatlantic rival Norwegian
IAG says it already holds 4.6% stake and is weighing up ‘the possibility of a full offer’

Rob Davies

12, Apr, 2018 @11:20 AM

Article image
British Airways owner IAG slashes flights after €1.3bn loss
International Airlines Group reports quarterly loss as Covid travel curbs in Europe take toll

Joanna Partridge and Gwyn Topham

22, Oct, 2020 @7:47 AM

Article image
British Airways should come clean about computer chaos
With two check-in meltdowns last year the airline must have known there were bugs in the system that needed fixing

Patrick Collinson

30, May, 2017 @5:52 PM

Article image
BA owner IAG reports €3.5bn loss as it monitors Ukraine developments
Company expects to make significant profit in 2022 unless there are geopolitical or Covid restrictions

Gwyn Topham and Mark Sweney

25, Feb, 2022 @4:09 PM