Jump in passenger numbers lifts profits at BA owner

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BUOYANT demand for British Airways transatlantic flights and the continued overhaul of Spanish carrier Iberia helped their owner to soaring quarterly profits.

International Airlines Group (IAG) hailed “strong” July to September results as pre-tax profits leapt to 606m euros (£505m) from 244m euros a year earlier.

BA saw a 100m euro (£83m) sales “bounce-back” from last year’s London Olympic Games, which slashed demand for business flights from the capital.

Passenger numbers across the group leapt 35.2 per cent to 21.3m during the quarter from 15.8m a year earlier, boosted by its acquisition of Spanish airline Vueling.

Falling costs and 6.9 per cent growth in revenues to 5.4bn euros (£4.5bn) helped drive the profits boom.

IAG, formed from a merger of BA and Iberia in 2011, said its revenue growth next year will be driven by rising passenger volumes rather than yield, as it launches new BA routes and sees strong growth from Vueling.

The update lifted IAG’s shares more than 3 per cent, helping boost sentiment after the industry was hit by budget carrier Ryanair’s recent profits warning – its second in as many months. The Irish airline is being forced to slash fares to stimulate demand.

Quarterly operating profits at BA surged to 477m euros (£397m) from 268m euros a year earlier, driven by the strong London market, transatlantic flights and the recovery from the Olympics.

It declined to discuss how its route between Leeds Bradford Airport and Heathrow was performing.

IAG is forcing through painful changes at Iberia, including cutting capacity by 15 per cent, slashing pay and axing 3,100 Iberia jobs.

Profits at Iberia hit 74m euros (£62m) from just 1m euros a year earlier.

Chief executive Willie Walsh said the group results were “strong”, with an “improved” performance by Iberia.