British Airways owner International Airlines Group today reported a record first quarter with an improved operating profit of €170 million.

The year-on-year increase of €15 million for the three months to March 31 came in what is traditionally the weakest quarter of the year.

The company reported that start-up low cost long-haul carrier Level had attracted sales ahead of expectations.

IAG, which also owns Aer Lingus, Iberia and Vueling, expects its operating profit for 2017 to show an improvement year-on-year at current fuel prices and exchange rates.

Passenger unit revenue for the quarter fell by 7.2%, down 3.1% at constant currency.

IAG also reported 10% traffic growth in April, with premium carryings up by 7% over the same month last year.

Reflecting on the first quarter, CEO Willie Walsh said: “We’re reporting an operating profit of €170 million before exceptional items which is up from €155 million compared to last year.

“This is a record performance in Q1, traditionally our weakest quarter, with the improving trend in passenger unit revenue continuing.

“The impact of currency exchange was €32 million in the quarter due to the translation of sterling profit into euros.

“In March we launched Level, our new longhaul low cost airline brand, which starts flights from Barcelona to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Punta Cana and Buenos Aires in June. 

“It’s already been extremely successful with sales running well ahead of expectations”.

*EasyJet saw carryings in April rise by 11.7% to 7.1 million, up from 6.4 million year-on-year, with a load factor up by 2.5 percentage points to 92.9%.

This gave the budget carrier a rolling 12 month passenger total up by 7.8% to more than 76.6 million.