British Airways owner lands record third-quarter profit

Strong summer sales boosted International Airlines Group to an operating profit of €1.7 billion

A British Airways plane at Heathrow Airport. The airline's revenue grew by 20 per cent in the third quarter. PA Images
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The owner of British Airways, Irish airline Aer Lingus and Spanish carrier Iberia has landed a record third-quarter operating profit, thanks to a bumper summer.

International Airlines Group made an operating profit of €1.7 billion ($1.79 billion) in its third quarter, up 43 per cent on the same period last year.

That translated into an after-tax profit number of €1.23 billion in the third quarter, a 44 per cent rise on last year.

Total revenue increased across all of IAG's airlines in the third quarter, with British Airways, Aer Lingus and Iberia growing at 20 per cent, 16 per cent and 19 per cent, respectively.

Stronger balance sheet

There was a significant strengthening of the balance sheet as IAG reduced its gross debt by €2.4 billion to €17.2 billion by the end of September this year

Bookings for the fourth quarter are as expected, IAG said, and 2023 is predicted to be year of “strong recovery” for the company, as it flies back towards pre-coronavirus capacity levels.

“This quarter represents a record third-quarter performance for IAG,” said IAG chief executive Luis Gallego.

“This is allowing us to invest in the business and reduce a significant amount of our debt.

“During the third quarter, we saw sustained strong demand across all our routes, in particular the North and South Atlantic and in all leisure destinations around Europe.

“We continue to develop our hubs of Barcelona, Dublin, London and Madrid, supported by our fleet deliveries and future orders.”

Mr Gallego noted that it was too early to tell if the business would be affected by the Israel-Hamas conflict.

The rise in the price of oil had caused some concern among airline analysts, but IAG's chief financial officer Nicholas Cadbury said the company was “well-hedged on jet fuel into Q1 [the first quarter] and Q2 [second quarter] of next year”.

Analysts felt much of IAG's strong performance was down to customers continuing to spend money on travel experiences, despite the rise in the cost of borrowing in the major economies.

But with interest rates set to be higher for longer, how long that spending continues is a matter for debate.

“A pivot has taken place in the travel sector since the pandemic, in terms of its importance to consumers, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to see knocks to performance – especially for the long-haul carriers like IAG,” said Sophie Lund-Yates, lead equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

“Further information on how next year’s summer bookings are shaping up will be the most important barometer in understanding how far the current round of consumer confidence can carry this aviation giant.”

Updated: October 27, 2023, 7:50 AM