International Airlines Group today raised its annual profit forecast after delivering a €120 million jump in first quarter operating profits.

The €280 million total for the three months to March 31 compares with €160 million achieved in the same period last year.

The performance delivered a pre-tax profit up to €246 million for the parent company of carriers including British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia, Vueling and Level.

Revenue topped €5 billion as passenger carryings grew by 8.5% to almost 23 million as capacity rose by 4.1%.

The company said it expects its operating profit for 2018 to show an increase year-on-year at current fuel prices and exchange rates.

Both passenger unit revenue and non-fuel unit costs are expected to improve at constant currency.

Chief executive, Willie Walsh, said: “We’re reporting another strong quarter performance with an operating profit of €280 million before exceptional items, up from €160 million last year.

“Our positive passenger unit revenue trend continued with an increase of 3.5% at constant currency.

“This trend benefitted partially from the timing of Easter. Non-fuel unit costs before exceptional items were down 0.9 per cent at constant currency.

“Despite higher market prices, our fuel unit costs have gone up by just 0.6% in euros.

“This quarter British Airways put in place a new flexible defined contribution pension scheme. It replaces the existing New Airways Pension Scheme (NAPS) and British Airways Retirement Plan (BARP).”