IAG Airlines Plan To Offer 100% Of Their Pre-COVID NA Schedule In 2022

IAG is on a steady path to recovery, offering its outlook for 2022 in its Q3 2021 earnings report. With border restrictions easing on both sides of the Atlantic, the airline group believes that it will have a complete restoration of its North Atlantic capacity to 2019 levels by Summer 2022.

Iberia A350
Iberia is IAG’s full-service legacy airline based in Spain. Photo: Iberia

A full restoration to 2019 levels

IAG, the European airline group comprised of British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, and LEVEL, is confident that its North Atlantic capacity will be restored to pre-pandemic levels in less than a year. The group sees Summer 2022 as the period of full recovery.

In its third-quarter report issued on November 5th, IAG showed that the number of routes and airline seat kilometers (ASKs) available for Summer 2022 would match that of Summer 2019. In fact, ASKs will even be exceeded by 1%.

Below is the chart provided by IAG that shows its four transatlantic-operating airlines and the comparison between Winter 2019 and Winter 2021, and Summer 2019 and Summer 2022. As mentioned in the chart’s small footnote, “North Atlantic” for IAG includes Bermuda, Canada, and the USA. Data in the table includes British Airways routes to Calgary, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, and Aer Lingus’ route to Toronto. Aer Lingus includes its flights from Manchester while LEVEL includes only LEVEL Spain.

IAG Report
As an airline group, IAG looks like its well on its way to recovery. Photo: IAG

As you can see in the chart, airline recovery will not be completely even and parallel. Indeed, British Airways will lag behind its fellow group carriers, seeing slightly less activity than in 2019. This will be compensated by Iberia and LEVEL exceeding their Summer 2019 route offerings and ASKs.

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What’s driving this recovery?

At this point, asking “what’s driving this recovery?” is probably a silly question with an obvious answer as it’s clear how IAG is able to restore its North Atlantic activities. However, if it wasn’t already apparent, this restoration of service is made possible by easing border restrictions combined with pent-up demand on both sides of the Atlantic.

IAG offers the two points as key enablers of recovery:

  • The simplification of the UK’s traffic light system and the elimination of ‘red’ countries requiring quarantine. Additionally, there is a reduction in testing requirements for fully vaccinated travelers.
  • The reopening of the United States to travelers from the EU, UK, and other nationalities from November 8th.

While Canada is a much smaller portion of IAG’s transatlantic activity, the country opened up to tourism and non-essential travel in September, two months ahead of the United States.

British Airways will not recover as fully as some of its other group airlines. However, the carrier offered – and offers- a much larger transatlantic offering than other IAG airlines. Photo: Airbus

Challenges remain

Although transatlantic recovery is on the horizon, IAG notes that there are still a few challenges in the way before it gets back to the level of activity seen in 2019. Indeed the firm notes that there are still individual approaches being taken even within the EU’s standardized criteria – although examples of this weren’t provided in the report.

IAG also adds that testing requirements still vary around the world. The company considers some required testing to be “unnecessary” and “costly,” which presents a hindrance to its progress.

Despite the remaining challenges, it’s encouraging to see one of IAG’s key markets attain full pre-pandemic recovery in just over two years.

Which part of the world do you think will be the last to make a full recovery? Will it be Africa, Asia, South America, or somewhere else? Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment.