LONDON, Feb 29 — British Airways parent IAG announced today that net profit surged six-fold last year, boosted by “strong” demand particularly from leisure travellers as the bounceback from Covid continued.

Profit after taxation jumped to 2.7 billion euros (US$2.9 billion) in 2023 from 431 million euros in 2022, the airline conglomerate said in a results statement, adding that revenues leapt by almost a third to 29.5 billion euros.

IAG, which also owns Spanish carrier Iberia, added that its “strong growth” was “underpinned by robust and sustainable demand”.

Operating profit before exceptional items nearly tripled to 3.5 billion euros.

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The London-listed aviation giant added that it hired 13,000 new workers last year.

“In 2023, IAG more than doubled its operating margin and profits compared to 2022, generated excellent free cash flow and strengthened its balance sheet position, recovering capacity to close to pre-Covid levels in most of its core markets,” said chief executive Luis Gallego.

He added: “Our airlines operate in the largest and most attractive markets globally and we will continue to invest in our brands to transform the business, improve the customer experience and support the delivery of sustainable growth and world-class margins.”

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Passenger capacity last year reached 95.7 per cent of levels in 2019, or before the Covid pandemic sparked lockdowns, grounded airlines and ravaged demand for air travel.

The company also issued a rosy outlook rooted in “robust” demand, adding that it was 92-per cent booked for the first quarter of 2024 and 62-per cent booked for the first half, ahead of its position last year.

IAG was formed from 2011 merger of British Airways and Iberia and has since expanded to also include Aer Lingus, Level and Vueling.

One year ago, it announced the acquisition of airline Air Europa for 500 million euros (US$545 million) from Spanish tourism group Globalia.

That transaction was aimed at strengthening IAG’s links with Latin America and making Madrid airport a major European hub. — AFP