British Airways owner IAG has returned to quarterly profitability for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic, but blamed Heathrow for its current “operational challenges”.
IAG chief executive Luis Gallego said the group’s best performing airlines were Iberia and Vueling, which were boosted by a recovery in the Spanish domestic market and routes to Latin America.
But he said that the industry is facing challenges as it returns to normal operations following two years of pandemic-related turbulence, singling out Heathrow Airport, where he said those challenges had been “acute”.
“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,” he said.
“Our performance reflected a significant increase in capacity, load factor (how full planes are) and yield compared to the first quarter.
“Premium leisure remains strong while business travel continues a steady recovery in all airlines.”
The group’s airlines have been among many affected by months of cancellations, delays and missing luggage, and Heathrow is among many airports across Europe that have been hit.
Staff shortages in ground handling, airports and flight crew have presented major challenges as the aviation sector struggles to move into the peak season after two years of coronavirus pandemic-related turbulence.
But British Airways has been among the most energetic in cutting flights, having cut or lost thousands of staff during the pandemic.
MPs and consumer advocates have been among those who have criticised how the issue has been handled by both airlines and airports.
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.”
IAG said its passenger capacity hit 78% of 2019 levels and it expects to reach around 80% in the third quarter and 85% in the fourth.
It posted an operating profit for the second quarter of €293m (£245m), compared with an operating loss of €967m (£810m) in 2021.