Boss Willie Walsh hailed the group’s strong performance in the face of spiralling fuel costs, last summer’s air traffic control disruption and substantial foreign exchange impact.
“Yet again, we’ve improved our operating profit this year, and our adjusted earnings per share grew by 15.1%,” he said.
“This was a very good performance despite three significant challenges: fuel prices increasing 30%, considerable air traffic control disruption and adverse foreign exchange impact of €129 million.
"At constant currency, passenger unit revenue improved 2.4% while non-fuel unit costs decreased 0.8% on capacity growth of 6.1%.”
Pre-tax profits, meanwhile, grew 9.8% in the year to December 31, 2018, to €3 billion.
However, IAG said it expects 2019 operating profit before exception items to be “broadly in line” with 2018.
“Passenger unit revenue is expected to improve at constant currency and non-fuel unit cost is expected to be flat at constant currency,” said the group.
Group-wide passenger numbers, inclusive of BA, Iberia, Vueling, Level and Aer Lingus, increased 7.7% year-on-year to nearly 113 million on record load factor for IAG of 83.3%, up 0.7 percentage points – 1.4 points higher than the Iata average.
Overall network capacity increased 6.1%, including growth in all markets save for Asia-Pacific where capacity growth was flat.
IAG said the growth reflected new BA, Iberia and Aer Lingus long-haul routes, as well as Level’s short-haul operations at Vienna and additional frequency on certain Iberia and Vueling routes in Europe.
Walsh added the group would return €1.3 billion to shareholders for 2018, €615 million via ordinary dividends and a “special dividend” of about €700 million – a total increase of about €260 million compared to last year.
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