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British Airways owner announces record profits for first half of 2023 | International Airlines Group

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International Airlines Group has announced record profits for the first half of 2023, with air fares up almost 10% on last year.

The British Airways owner said it expected its flight capacity across the group to recover to pre-pandemic levels by the end of the year, with booming demand pushing it to a half-yearly operating profit of €1.3bn (£1.1bn) from losses of €446m (£383m) for the first six months of 2022.

The BA chief executive, Sean Doyle, said the airline was much more resilient than it was last year and had “navigated through to the end of July, I think at a much better place”.

French air traffic control strikes were still causing disruption, with BA particularly affected because its flights out of Heathrow and Gatwick rely heavily on crossing French airspace.

Summer 2022 was marked by significant upheaval, with BA forced to cancel thousands of flights due to labour shortages, especially at its main Heathrow hub.

The airline said it was building resilience against further disruption by recruiting 4,000 people so far in 2023, mainly in ground operations, and leasing additional aircraft with crew.

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Doyle said the airline was not yet seeing any effects on bookings from the summer heatwave, which has brought extreme temperatures to much of southern Europe and the US. He said the coronavirus pandemic had taught BA to be “agile” in rerouting, but added: “I think it’s too early to gauge if fundamental demand patterns are changing. Traditional markets of southern Europe are very, very strong this year and actually they continue to book strongly.”

IAG said leisure demand remained strong across all its airlines – which include Aer Lingus and the Spanish carriers Iberia and Vueling – for the summer months, with about 80% of seats already booked until the end of September.

While capacity has returned across the group, the number of long-haul and premium seats flown by BA is expected to remain below pre-Covid levels until 2025 and 2026, after the airline retired its 747 jumbos during the pandemic. BA announced it was ordering another six Boeing 787 Dreamliners to meet returning demand.

Luis Gallego, the chief executive of IAG, said: “Our strong profits since the start of the year are helping to fund investment for our customers, and to improve our balance sheet by reducing debt. We don’t see any sign of a slowdown in the demand.”

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