International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG) has posted an operating loss of €7.4 billion (£6.5 billion) for 2020 after the Covid-19 crisis grounded the majority of its flights.

The parent of British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus reported an operating loss of €4.4 billion before exceptional items, compared to an operating profit of €3.3 billion in 2019.

Total revenue, before exceptional items, fell to €7.9 billion, from €25.5 billion in the year before.

Luis Gallego, IAG chief executive, said: “Our results reflect the serious impact that Covid-19 has had on our business.

“We have taken effective action to preserve cash, boost liquidity and reduce our cost base. Despite this crisis, our liquidity remains strong.”

He added: “The aviation industry stands with governments in putting public health at the top of the agenda. Getting people travelling again will require a clear roadmap for unwinding current restrictions when the time is right.

“We know there is pent-up demand for travel and people want to fly.

“Vaccinations are progressing well and global infections are going in the right direction.

“We’re calling for international common testing standards and the introduction of digital health passes to reopen our skies safely.”

Passenger capacity in the fourth quarter of 2020 was 27% of 2019 and for the full year was 34% of 2019. It continues to be “adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, together with government restrictions and quarantine requirements”, said IAG.

Current passenger capacity plans for the first quarter of 2021 are for about 20% of 2019 capacity “but remain uncertain and subject to review”.