British Airways has reported a 91% drop in profits, blaming “incredibly difficult” trading conditions.

The airline made £52 million profit before tax in the six months to September, compared to £616 million in 2007. 

Speaking as he presented the interim management report for the period, chief exeuctive Willie Walsh said: “This is a good performance given the incredibly difficult trading conditions.

“The six month period will be remembered as one of the bleakest on record. The period was hit by a crisis in the banking sector, record fuel prices and several airlines going out of business.” 

Fuel costs for the period were up £511 million at £1.49 billion.

Walsh added: “Our annual fuel bill is still expected to be up some 50 per cent at about £3 billion. Employee costs, including a £40 million severance provision, were up 8.6 per cent.

“We have made good progress with our plans to offset the difficult conditions. We have reviewed the summer 2009 schedule and plan to reduce capacity by some 1 per cent compared with summer 2008.

“We have revised capital expenditure plans and remain focused on cost control and our strong cash position.”

Walsh said Terminal 5 is now performing far more positively with 90% of Heathrow flights now running from the terminal and 12 million customers having passed through the facility

He added Heathrow punctuality was 20% points better in July, August and September than the same months last year while in Ocotber the punctuality was 23% points up.