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British Airways owner IAG ramps up passenger capacity

written by Isabella Richards | August 2, 2021

BA’s selection of the A350 adds to its growing Airbus fleet. (BA)

British Airways’ owner International Airlines Group (IAG) is set to ramp up its passenger capacity in the coming months.

IAG said it would operate 45 per cent of its pre-pandemic passenger capacity between now and September, and hopes to rise to 75 per cent by the end of this year.

This follows a surge in US bookings to Britain after restriction changes late last week allow double-jabbed citizens to bypass quarantine upon arrival.

IAG chief executive Luis Gallego said the company had “flexibility to capitalise” where demand has increased, but will continue to review the changes.

“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,” he said.

Gallego said this is the “first step” in restoring the trans-Atlantic travel sector.

Within a few hours of the restriction changes between the US and UK, British Airways saw bookings surge 95 per cent, mainly from New York and Los Angeles.

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British Airways CEO and chairman Sean Doyle said the move would “boost the British economy and the hospitality sector, which like aviation, has been crippled by the effects of the pandemic”.

“We will support our customers as we emerge from this crisis and hope for crucial travel corridors to be established to allow reciprocal agreements,” he said.

Flights between popular tourist destinations, such as London and New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, and Seattle and London will increase from August.

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While British Airways’ recovery is steady, IAG’s Irish airline Aer Lingus and Spanish airlines Vueling and Iberia will increase capacity up to 70 per cent in the coming months.

Gallego said the carriers are its “best performers,” leading the company’s recovery as both reported deep cuts to its second-quarter losses

Iberia cut its first-half operating loss by 62 per cent to €330 million and Vueling halved its loss to €195 million, Flight Global noted.

IAG reported a €2.2 billion loss in its second quarter, reaping the continuous impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, these losses did not dampen IAG’s strategy to continue capitalising in areas it can, such as capacity increases.

This move will likely reduce the need for British Airways to cut more jobs as the furlough scheme is set to halt in September.

“Right now, we are not considering to reduce jobs more, but for sure we need to see the evolution of the situation,” Gallego said.

Last year, the carrier cut up to 12,000 jobs and thousands more this June due to continuous changes in restrictions.

“What we would like is to have an extension of the furlough scheme until the end of the year,” Gallego said.

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