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Virus-hit airline giant IAG narrows loss in first half

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IAG, the parent company of a handful of airlines including British Airways, flew just 22 percent of the level of its pre-pandemic flights in the second quarter

IAG, the owner of British Airways and Iberia, said Friday that it narrowed its net loss in the first half, but continued to face fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

The London-listed conglomerate said in a statement that it suffered a loss after taxation of 2.0 billion euros ($2.4 billion) in the six months to the end of June.

That was almost half the group's net loss of 3.8 billion euros in the same period a year earlier, when the pandemic erupted and ravaged air travel.

Revenues remain severely depressed by the pandemic, down 60 percent at 2.2 billion euros.

The airline giant said it "continues to be adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic together with government restrictions and quarantine requirements".

Passenger capacity in the second quarter was only 22 percent of its pre-pandemic level.

Looking ahead, the group plans to operate about 45 percent of its capacity in the key summer months between July and September, when compared with 2019.

IAG added that it remained ready to ramp up services once international travel curbs are fully lifted.

"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," said chief executive Luis Gallego.

"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."

IAG was "ready to fly as much as 75 percent of its 2019 capacity" in the final three months of this year.

Gallego meanwhile welcomed the announcement that fully-vaccinated people in the United States and European Union, except France, will be allowed to travel to England without having to quarantine on arrival.

They will still need to do a pre-departure test and take another test on day two after arriving in England.

The UK government's latest policy change, unveiled on Wednesday, will come into force from 4:00 am (0300 GMT) on August 2.

"We see this as an important first step in fully re-opening the transatlantic travel corridor," Gallego said on Friday.

Those travelling to Britain from an amber list country, which includes most of Europe and the US, who are not fully vaccinated will still have to quarantine on arrival.

Travel destinations are ranked green, amber or red according to virus risk.

IAG was slammed by the Covid-19 pandemic, which grounded planes worldwide and decimated demand for air travel.

As a result, the company booked a huge net loss of 6.9 billion euros in 2020.

IAG has slashed costs as it sought to navigate the emergency health crisis.

It has axed around 10,000 jobs at British Airways -- or one quarter of the carrier's workforce -- and also has cut 500 positions at Aer Lingus.

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