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International Airlines Group, the owner of British Airways and Iberia, beat expectations on Friday, reporting an almost 10 per cent rise in operating profit for the first quarter of the year.

Operating profit before exceptional items was €170m, up from €155m in the same period last year, in what is typically the weakest season of the year for airlines. This represented a record performance for the group in quarter one.

However, the group saw total revenue drop almost 3 per cent to €4.9bn, hit by the timing of Easter, which has fallen later this year, and the impact of a weak pound.

The group said it continued to expect operating profit for 2017 to show year on year improvement.

IAG’s results come amid signs of a turnaround in the European airline industry, with both Lufthansa and Air France-KLM recently reporting more positive outlooks on bookings and pricing.

The European airline industry has been struggling with economic uncertainty unleashed by Brexit, the effect of the terror attacks in the EU and a glut of new capacity that is pushing down fares.

IAG was among several airlines that issued profit warnings soon after the UK’s vote last June to leave the EU, saying it had experienced weaker trading in the run-up to the referendum.

Reporting by Tanya Powley.

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