International Airlines Group (IAG) has reported a first quarter profit for the first time since 2019, following what it said had been a “stronger performance than expected at every airline”.

The group made an operating profit before exceptional items of €9 million in the first quarter of 2023, compared with a loss of €718 million in the same period of 2022.

Member carrier Iberia delivered its best ever Q1 performance, fuelled by strong demand in Spain and Latin America, which IAG said made the carrier “one of the world’s most profitable airlines” in the first quarter of the year.

In February IAG announced an agreement to acquire the remaining 80 per cent stake in Madrid-based carrier Air Europa, stating that the acquisition “remains strategically important for the Group and positions it to benefit from growth opportunities in the Latin America and Caribbean market, as well as to increase connectivity to Asia”.

IAG agrees new deal to acquire Air Europa

British Airways also returned to Q1 profit for the first time since 2019, with IAG reporting “strong demand from leisure travel to most parts of the network” while corporate travel is “recovering slowly”.

The group said that there was an “encouraging outlook” for the summer, with around 80 per cent of expected Q2 revenue already booked, and it expects capacity to be around 97 per cent of 2019 level for the full year.

Commenting on the news Luis Gallego, IAG Chief Executive Officer, said:

“IAG has delivered a strong first quarter financial performance, as Group airlines recovered capacity to close to pre-pandemic levels. Iberia contributed a record first quarter profit and all our airlines performed above expectations, benefiting from robust demand and a lower fuel price in the quarter.

“We are seeing healthy forward bookings with leisure demand particularly strong while business travel continues to recover more slowly.

“As we return to more normal operations, we continue to invest in sustainability, including more fuel-efficient aircraft, and in customer experience, updating the business cabins for British Airways and Iberia.

“Over the past year we have recruited thousands of new employees across the Group and strengthened our operations so that we are ready to deliver for our customers during the summer peak.

“We have the right model to succeed with synergies and efficiencies across the Group and I want to thank all our employees for the role they have played in our continued recovery.”