Virus-hit airline giant IAG dives to 6.9-bln-euro loss

IAG, the owner of British Airways and Spanish carrier Iberia, said Friday it suffered a 2020 net loss of 6.9 billion euros ($8.4 billion) as the coronavirus pandemic paralysed air travel.

The huge loss after tax compared with a net profit of 1.7 billion euros in 2019, IAG said in a results statement.

Revenues slumped almost 70 percent to 7.8 billion euros from 25.5 billion euros as passenger capacity was slashed.

The number of passengers remains significantly down on pre-pandemic levels. 

“Our results reflect the serious impact that Covid-19 has had on our business,” said IAG chief executive Luis Gallego.

Capacity was just 33.5 percent of the previous year and continues to be “adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, together with government restrictions and quarantine requirements”, the group said.

IAG, whose portfolio also includes Ireland’s Aer Lingus, is undertaking a painful cost-cutting drive and has axed thousands of jobs as it navigates the dizzying downturn in international aviation.

The company said it has already axed the “substantial majority” of 10,000 jobs at British Airways — or one quarter of the carrier’s workforce — as well as 500 positions at Aer Lingus.

It had previously flagged around 13,000 job cuts at BA.

“We have taken effective action to preserve cash, boost liquidity and reduce our cost base. Despite this crisis, our liquidity remains strong,” Gallego said.

IAG liquidity stood at 10.3 billion euros, including a 2.7-billion-euro capital increase and a £2.0 billion loan commitment agreed in December.

Non-fuel costs sank 37.1 percent last year.

“The group continues to reduce its cost base and increase the proportion of variable costs to better match market demand,” said Gallego.

“We’re transforming our business to ensure we emerge in a stronger competitive position.”

The pandemic has ravaged demand for air travel and grounded planes worldwide.

The International Air Transport Association predicts global air passenger traffic will recover more slowly than expected this year as coronavirus variants spark infection flare-ups, forcing governments to take additional action to curb their spread.