United Kingdom

British Airways owner losing £19m EVERY day

British Airways's owner swung to a record loss of £6.5billion after the pandemic closed borders and stopped millions of passengers flying. 

IAG, which also owns Spain's Iberia and Ireland's Aer Lingus, saw revenues plummet 69 per cent to £6.7billion last year. 

It lost the equivalent of £19m a day – or £205 a second – as it carried just a third of the travellers it did in 2019.

Struggle: IAG, which also owns Spain's Iberia and Ireland's Aer Lingus, saw revenues plummet 69 per cent to £6.7billion last year

IAG boss Luis Gallego said it was too early to say how the company would perform in 2021 because there is still too much uncertainty around the pandemic. 

Second waves of the virus derailed the winter holiday season, which the industry had been counting on for a last-minute boost, and fresh lockdowns mean IAG expects to run just a fifth of the 2019 schedule in the first quarter of the year. But shares in IAG bounced yesterday, despite the bruising figures, rising 3.1 per cent, or 5.7p, to 191.95p. 

Gallego said it was encouraging that vaccination rollouts were 'progressing well' and that there was a 'big increase' in demand for travel after Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled his road map for ending lockdown on Monday. 

Flight bookings were up by more than 60 per cent on the day of the announcement compared with the same day the previous week – a surge other airlines such as Easyjet also enjoyed. Holidays could be allowed from May 17 under the plans, but no earlier and this date could be pushed back. 

Gallego also urged governments to set up 'vaccine passports' to ensure foreign holidays can go ahead this summer. 

British Airways already accepts the Verifly app, on which travellers can upload proof of a recent negative Covid test. But the makers say it could be expanded to include proof of vaccination within days, if governments were to reach agreements on accepting inoculated tourists. 

Gallego said: 'The aviation industry stands with governments in putting public health at the top of the agenda. Getting people travelling again will require a clear road map for unwinding current restrictions when the time is right. 

'We know there is pent-up demand for travel and people want to fly. Vaccinations are progressing well and global infections are going in the right direction. If we continue with the road map to open aviation, we are going to have a positive summer.' Gallego, 52, said the 2020 results – the first he has delivered as boss – 'reflect the serious impact that Covid-19 has had on our business'. 

IAG has been particularly badly hit by the drop in transatlantic flights during the pandemic because BA – by the far the biggest airline in its stable – relies on these lucrative routes. 

Norwegian Air and Gatwick Airport also released bruising figures yesterday. 

Budget carrier Norwegian dived to a record £1.9billion loss last year. The firm, which is under bankruptcy protection in Norway and Ireland, earned much of its cash before the pandemic from cheap transatlantic flights. It has now abandoned these routes. 

And Gatwick tumbled to a loss of £465m after passenger numbers fell by nearly 80 per cent.

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