British Airways made almost £50 per second in profit in the first nine months of 2023. But the airline’s parent company, IAG, warned of a wide range of risks in the months and years ahead.
BA made £1.15bn in profit in the first nine months of 2023, £215m short of the same spell in 2019.
IAG said the summer months, from July to September, had been particularly successful: “British Airways total revenue grew by 20 per cent in the quarter, on capacity growth of 25 per cent, in particular through strong leisure demand.”
BA’s capacity is still down 10 per cent compared with 2019. IAG said: “Restoration of capacity in British Airways has been lower than in the other operating companies, reflecting the retirement of British Airways’ Boeing 747-400 fleet in its response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the slower restoration of capacity in the Asia Pacific region.”
The figures would have been better were it not for “higher disruption across the business, including the UK Nats systems outage in August”. The failure of the UK air-traffic control (ATC) system for several hours on 28 August triggered the cancellation of more than 2,000 flights across all airlines.
The Independent estimates the disruption cost British Airways £12m, slightly less than its two main budget rivals, easyJet and Ryanair.
IAG warned of “airports’ resilience weaknesses, particularly London Heathrow, and ATC restrictions and strikes”.
The company warned of a wide range of other risks – including the supply of planes and parts: “Aircraft, engines and component availability … remains a challenge, given the fundamental weaknesses in the resilience of the aviation sector’s supply chain.
“Delays in new aircraft and spare engine availability continue to impact operations and increase turnaround times for aircraft.”
Other risks include the impact of inflation on demand and customer confidence. The IAG statement said: “As interest rate increases start to materially pass through to customers for their personal debt, they may need to reduce their spend on travel to accommodate the increase in their cost of borrowing.”
IAG also warned of: “The impact of escalating and ongoing geopolitical tensions and conflict in various regions, in particular the Middle East.”
Overall, though, IAG said: “We expect 2023 to be a year of strong recovery in our margins, operating profit and balance sheet and towards pre-Covid-19 levels of capacity. “