London-New York flight demand is a boost for BA

Strong demand for flights between London and New York overcame the drag of soaring fuel bills, enabling British Airways to push its new parent company into the black in the first half of the year.

International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG), formed from the merger of BA and Iberia in January, swung to a pre-tax profit of €39m (£34m), propelled by a 16-per-cent jump in passengers on the Heathrow-to-JFK route.

The rise in traffic between London and New York was helped by a new joint venture between BA and Amer-ican Airlines in which the carriers are able to reduce simultaneous services by co-operating on timetabling.

Overall fare revenues across IAG, which reported a €419m loss in the first half of last year, increased by nearly 20 per cent to €6.4bn, as the group's total passenger numbers increased 11 per cent. This more than offset a 34-per-cent jump in fuel costs to €2.4bn over the period. BA expects its fuel bill to continue to rise, to an estimated €5.2bn for the year.

Douglas McNeill, at Charles Stanley, said: "These are good results at the upper end of expectations, but the year-ago period was depressed by the ash cloud crisis and strikes at BA."

Although BA swung to a healthy operating profit of €210m for the six months to 30 June, Iberia made a €78m loss, affected by the economic turmoil in its home country of Spain.