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British Airways’ owner International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG) has returned to profit for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
The group said it made an operating profit of 293 million euros (£245 million) between April and June, compared with a 967 million euro (£810 million) loss during the same period last year.
It expects operating profit before exceptional items to be “positive” for 2022 as a whole if there are “no further setbacks related to Covid-19 and government-imposed restrictions or material impacts from geopolitical developments”.
IAG chief executive Luis Gallego said: “In the second quarter we returned to profit for the first time since the start of the pandemic following a strong recovery in demand across all our airlines.
“This result supports our outlook for a full-year operating profit.
“Our performance reflected a significant increase in capacity, load factor and yield compared to the first quarter.
“Premium leisure remains strong, while business travel continues a steady recovery in all airlines.”
IAG said the “challenging operational environment at Heathrow” meant British Airways’ capacity was limited to 69.1% of pre-pandemic levels between April and June.
That is compared with 57.4% during the previous three months.
The airline, which has cancelled tens of thousands of flights this summer, plans to increase its capacity to around 75% between July and October.
IAG’s plans for overall passenger capacity are around 80% between July and October, and 85% for the final quarter of the year.
That is a reduction of 5% for the second half of 2022 compared with previous guidance, which the group said is “mainly due to the challenges at Heathrow”.
On July 12, Heathrow introduced a cap of 100,000 daily departing passengers until September 11 due to a shortage of staff in ground handling and elsewhere, leading to more flights being cancelled.
Mr Gallego said: “Our industry continues to face historic challenges due to the unprecedented scaling up in operations, especially in the UK where the operational challenges of Heathrow Airport have been acute.
“Our airline teams remain focused on enhancing operational resilience and improving customer experience.
“I would like to thank those customers affected for their loyalty and patience and our colleagues for their hard work and commitment.
“We will continue working with the industry to address these issues as aviation emerges from its biggest crisis ever.”
Mr Gallego told reporters that British Airways reduced its summer schedule at Heathrow as it realised its plan was “going to be impossible because of the shortage of people there”.
He went on: “We decided to cap the capacity in order to get resilience to the operation and in order to protect our customers.
“I think it was the right movement.
“We were worried because the projections of the number of people at Heathrow didn’t match the projections and the demand that we were expecting.”
Asked how long he believes restrictions will last at Heathrow, Mr Gallego replied: “We hope that before the end of the year we are going to have a more stable operation.
“I think with the adjustment of capacity that all the airlines have done, we are improving the resilience of operation at the airport.
“So I hope that if everything goes well, at the end of the year we will be in a better situation.”