British Airways owner International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG) is to increase flight numbers to meet the surge in demand for air travel as quarantine rules are eased.

The group, which also operates Iberia and Aer Lingus, said it plans to operate at around 45% passenger capacity from July to September, compared with the same period in 2019.

This is up from 21.9% during the previous three months.

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IAG chief executive Luis Gallego said the firm was “ready to fly as much as 75% of 2019 capacity” in the final three months of the year.

But the firm warns steps to increase its flight schedules “remain uncertain and subject to ongoing review” as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

It says it “continues to be adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic together with government restrictions and quarantine requirements”.

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However, the group did welcome the move to allow US and EU travellers who are fully vaccinated against coronavirus to enter the country without the need to quarantine from 2 August.

Mr Gallego said British Airways saw a 95% increase in the number of bookings for flights from the US to the UK shortly after Wednesday’s announcement on easing travel rules, compared with the same period last week.

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He added: “In the short term, our focus is on ensuring our operational readiness, so we have the flexibility to capitalise on an environment where there’s evidence of widespread pent-up demand when travel restrictions are lifted.

“We know that recovery will be uneven, but we’re ready to take advantage of a surge in air travel demand in line with increasing vaccination rates.

“We welcome the recent announcement that fully-vaccinated travellers from amber countries in the EU and the US will no longer have to quarantine upon arrival in the UK.

“We see this as an important first step in fully reopening the transatlantic travel corridor.”

The update came as IAG posted an operating loss of €2.03bn (£1.73bn) for the half-year to 30 June, representing a narrowing of the €4.05bn (£3.45bn) loss it saw for the same period in 2020.

Pressed over whether the planned ending of the furlough scheme in September could lead to more UK job losses, Mr Gallego said: “What we would like is to have an extension of the furlough scheme until the end of the year.”

He added: “Right now, we are not considering to reduce jobs more, but for sure we need to see the evolution of the situation.

“With the plans that we have right now, our plan is to fly, people want to fly, and for that we’re going to need our people.”

British Airways announced last year that more than 10,000 staff were being made redundant in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

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