No trans-Atlantic routes mean return to profits is going to be one long haul for British Airways. Image Credit: AFP

London: British Airways parent IAG SA posted a 7.43 billion-euro ($9 billion) operating loss in 2020 and said it can't provide an outlook as the coronavirus pandemic continues to batter air travel.

The group's first loss in almost a decade included exceptional charges of 3 billion euros against plane retirements, restructuring and fuel-hedging measures. CEO Luis Gallego said an international commitment to digital health passes and wider COVID-19 testing is required to reopen travel, on top of moves already being explored in countries including the UK.

"Getting people traveling again will require a clear roadmap for unwinding current restrictions when the time is right," he said.

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Strain on finances

IAG has had to cut jobs, borrow money and sell stock to stay afloat, with BA particularly hard because of its reliance on a trans-Atlantic market that's still virtually closed. Short-haul specialists such as EasyJet are counting on a quicker rebound as the UK's vaccine roll-out helps spur leisure bookings.

Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA separately reported a 16.63 billion kroner ($1.95 billion) loss in the fourth quarter, including impairment costs related to aircraft purchases. The Scandinavian carrier is restructuring under an examinership process in an Irish court and will offer a detailed plan next week.

The company has said it plans to raise new equity in late March or early April, and focus on regional flights after turning away from the low-cost, long-haul business that put price pressure on major carriers like British Airways

IAG attempted to purchase Norwegian Air in 2018, but dropped the plan after its bids were rejected and losses mounted at the smaller company.