International Airlines Group (IAG) has published its full year results for 2023, showing record annual operating profits of just over €3.5 billion.

The figure of €3.507 billion surpasses the €3.253 billion achieved in pre-pandemic 2019, and is significantly higher than the group’s 2022 profits of €1.247 billion.

Capacity for 2023 reached 95.7 per cent of pre-Covid 2019 levels, and peaked at 98.6 per cent in the fourth quarter. IAG said that the premium leisure segment continued to perform “very well”, with business traffic recovering “more slowly”.

The group said it expects subsidiary British Airways to return to pre-pandemic levels of non-premium capacity in 2024, followed by long-haul capacity by 2025, and premium capacity by 2026.

IAG said that 68 per cent of BA’s Heathrow-based long-haul fleet now offers the Club Suite business class product, with the focus turning to the carrier’s Boeing 787 fleet in 2024.

The group also provided an update on its planned acquisition of Air Europa – the group submitted its regulatory application to the European Commission in December, and said that this had now moved to Phase 2, “with a resolution expected in late 2024”.

Commenting on the news Luis Gallego, IAG’s chief executive officer, said:

“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-19 levels in most of its core markets.

“In 2024, we will execute on our strategy, building long-term value into the business. We will focus on strengthening our core airline businesses and on developing IAG Loyalty and our other asset-light growth opportunities, and we will do this while operating under a strong financial and sustainability framework.

“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.

“I would like to thank all of the teams across the Group for their continued hard work and dedication to delivering our transformation plan.”

This week the group signed an agreement to purchase 785,000 tonnes of Sustainable Aviation Fuel produced through power-to-liquid technology.

IAG is the first European airline group to announce an eSAF deal, and it means the group has now reached one third of its target to operate 10 per cent of flights with SAF by 2030.

IAG to purchase 785,000 tonnes of eSAF