Capacity at British Airways has still not recovered from the pandemic and is lagging behind its sister airlines at parent company IAG, the group’s latest financial figures have revealed.
In the last three months of 2023, British Airways is expected to have recovered to just 93% of the capacity it had available just before the pandemic struck in 2019, but overall capacity for the year will remain down 10% on pre-pandemic levels.
In contrast, fellow IAG airline Iberia plans to smash pre-pandemic capacity levels, operating at 111% in the fourth quarter and 103% for the full year, after the Spanish flag carrier was able to rebuild its network and workforce faster than BA.
Another IAG airline, the low-cost carrier Vueling, is performing even better with a planned 118% capacity for the fourth quarter, and Aer Lingus has ambitions to operate at 108% capacity compared to the same period in 2019.
IAG said on Friday that capacity growth at British Airways had been constrained by continuing supply chain issues, as well as a “challenging external environment” and issues with delays and cancellations.
British Airways has focused its capacity growth on increasing the number of flights to existing destinations, as well as using larger aircraft with more seats, but the airline is also looking to restore its Asian network to further increase capacity.
The airline says it expects operational resilience issues to improve through this winter, which should not only increase capacity but also reduce ballooning costs at the Heathrow-based carrier.
Constrained capacity and poor operational performance could be why business travel is recovering so slowly at British Airways, although the airline says its still seeing strong demand for premium leisure travel, especially on its numerous North Atlantic flights.
Although capacity at British Airways is still lagging, the airline remains by far the largest IAG airline and has so far carried more than 32 million passengers this year, compared to nearly 18 million passengers at Iberia and 28 million at Vueling.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.