Iberia losses soar as economic crisis hits air travel

British Airways' Spanish merger partner Iberia today said losses in the first nine months of the year more than tripled to €181.9m (£162.4m).

The group is suffering the same industry headaches that left BA with its first ever interim loss this year, with passengers flying less amid the recession.

Iberia's nine-month net loss widened from €51.1m (£46.7m) a year ago after a third quarter slump into the red by €16.4m (£14.6m) against profits of €30.4m (£27.1m) a year earlier.

The group said passenger traffic fell, recording a 6 per cent fall year-on-year in passenger kilometres travelled - a key industry measure - to 13.4 billion in the third quarter.

Its "load factor" - a measure of how well it is filling its planes - fell from 83.2 per cent to 82.1 per cent.

Spain has been hit particularly hard by the global recession, which is taking its toll on flight demand, while Spanish carriers are also facing stiff competition on domestic routes from new high-speed rail links.

But Iberia offered hope the airline sector was pulling out of its nosedive.

It said international passenger traffic started to pick up across the industry in the third quarter, while its own figures showed an improvement on the losses seen in the previous two quarters.

Iberia has joined rivals such as BA in slashing capacity, jobs and the number of planes in its fleet to meet the lower levels of demand.

It has reduced its total headcount by 4 per cent - or nearly 1,000 staff - year-on-year to 20,863 over the past nine months, while also imposing salary freezes.

BA has been taking more drastic action on these shores, only last week announcing another 1,200 job losses to take the total reduction to 4,900 by next year.

The British airline announced a record pre-tax loss of £292 million for the six months to the end of September - an inaugural loss in what is normally a buoyant period for the airline as it includes the holiday season.

BA, which recorded a loss of £401m in its previous financial year, said total revenues slumped by almost 14 per cent in the period.