IAG passenger numbers rise as it scales back capacity forecasts

British Airways owner International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG) has scaled back its forecasts for airline capacity over the next three years as it posted a rise in passenger numbers last month.

The airline giant reduced its forecasts for expected growth in available seats per kilometre to 3.4% for the years from 2019 to 2023, from its previous prediction of 6%.

IAG also reduced its forecasts for growth in earnings per share to 10% from 12% due to lower planned capacity growth.

However, it held firm on long-term profit margin forecasts as it said it still expects to deliver an operating profit margin of between 12% and 15% for the next three years.

It made the announcement as it also revealed a 3.4% jump in passenger numbers for October against the same period last year.

IAG saw passenger numbers rise to 10.3 million in October, from 10 million in the same month for 2018 on the back of growth across its core brands.

This represented a slowdown compared to the company’s total growth over the year to date, which has seen passenger numbers increase by 4.7% over the past nine months.

The group reported a 4.9% rise in passengers on domestic flights, while numbers travelling across Europe rose by 1.6%.

Passenger revenue per kilometre, one of the industry’s preferred metrics, increased by 4.8% driven by double-figure growth for domestic flights and those in Latin America and the Caribbean.

British Airways saw passenger numbers rise a more modest 1.1% to 4.2 million. The airline has seen passenger numbers increase by 1.2% over the year-to-date, IAG said.

The update came as IAG also maintained its forecasts for its return on invested capital, which it held at 15% for the three years from 2020 to 2022, ahead of its annual Capital Markets Day.

Last week, the travel giant saw its earnings knocked by a 155 million euro (£134 million) hit from a summer of strike action as British Airways faced the first industrial action by pilots in its history.

Earlier this week, IAG also expanded its airline portfolio with the acquisition of rival Spanish airline Air Europa for one billion euros (£860 million).