September 30, 2022
The History of International Airlines Group
Airlines History Industry

The History of International Airlines Group

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DALLAS – With more than 64,000 employees, International Airlines Group (IAG) is considered one of the world’s largest airline groups, with a fleet of over 500 aircraft. According to Forbes, it is considered one of the top 2000 largest public companies in the world.

IAG is an Anglo-Spanish multinational airline holding company with its registered office in Madrid, Spain, and its global headquarters in London, England. It was established in January 2011 through a merger between British Airways (BA) and Iberia (IB), the flag carriers of the United Kingdom and Spain respectively. Both companies became wholly-owned subsidiaries of IAG.

 Since its foundation, the Group has expanded its portfolio of operations and brands by purchasing other airlines, such as British Midland International – BMI (BD) in 2011, Vueling (VY) in 2012, Aer Lingus (EI) in 2015, and Air Europa (UX) in 2020. It also owns the LEVEL brand and the travel rewards program, Avios.

Since its launch, IAG has increased its global presence to reach over 268 destinations globally, carrying 113 million passengers each year.

Iberia. Photo: Fabrizio Spicuglia/Airways

IAG’s Beginnings

British Airways and IB signed a preliminary merger agreement in November 2009. In April 2010, the airlines signed a full merger agreement, with an intended completion date of late 2010, subject to securing the necessary regulatory approvals. 

In October 2010, the alliance between BA, IB, and American Airlines (AA) would be completed after getting the go-ahead from regulators in the European Union and the U.S.

The final merger between BA and IB was completed on 21 January 2011, and shares in the new holding company IAG began trading in London and Madrid on January 24 of that same year.

On October 6, 2011, IAG created Iberia Express, a new low-cost airline to operate short- and medium-haul routes from IAG’s Madrid hub and provide transfer feed onto IB’s long-haul network. Iberia Express began operations on 25 March 2012.

bmi Regional G-CKAG Embraer ERJ-145EP. Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways

BMI Acquisition, Cargo Arm

On November 4, 2011, IAG agreed in principle to acquire BD from Lufthansa (LH), in a deal that would increase IAG’s share of slots at London Heathrow Airport (LHR) from 45% to 54%.

On December 22, 2011, IAG agreed on a binding deal with LH to acquire BMI for £172.5m. On March 30, 2012, the purchase was approved, subject to the condition that the combined group divest itself of 12 daily slots and lease two daily slots at LHR.

The acquisition was completed on 20 April 2012, and the BD fleet and routes were integrated into the BA schedule throughout 2012. In October 2012, a partnership between Japan Airlines (JL) and BA was agreed upon, providing our customers with more links between Europe and Japan.

In December 2012, a month after acquiring VY, IAG completed the merger of the cargo operations of BA, BD and IB into a single business unit, IAG Cargo. The group would acquire EI in August of 2015.

LEVEL, IAG’s new low-cost, long-haul airline brand, starts operating in March 2017, with LEVEL Austria, which offers short-haul flights from Vienna, taking its first flight in June 2018.

In June 2019, IAG became the first airline group worldwide to commit to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and to commit to 10% SAF by 2030.

Air Europa (Norse Atlantic Airways) EC-NVY Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways

IAG Airlines

IAG is the parent company of the Group and it engages and works with the following portfolio of world‑class brands and operating companies:

Air Europa

Air Europa is Spain’s third-largest carrier behind Iberia and Vueling. In mid-August, 2022, IAG announced it would convert the €100m loan it gave to Globalia to a 20% share stake at Air Europa. Acquiring this share would only be possible by also keeping UX and IB independent of each other.

Aer Lingus

Aer Lingus is the national airline of Ireland, founded in 1936.

British Airways

British Airways is a global airline and the UK’s flag carrier, connecting Britain with the world and the world with Britain for more than 100 years.


Iberia was founded in 1927 and is the largest Spanish airline and the leader between Latin America and Europe. Additionally, to its passenger business, it is also involved in aircraft maintenance, airport handling services, and cargo.


LEVEL is IAG’s low-cost airline brand that offers an affordable, easy, and warm travel experience.


Vueling is one of Europe’s leading low-cost airlines, with special relevance in the Spanish domestic market, as well as in France and Italy.

IAG Cargo

IAG Cargo is the cargo division that combined the strength of five airlines – BA, IB, EI, VY, and LEVEL. It operates an extensive air freight network with the opportunity for customers to also charter aircraft.

 Featured image: British Airways. Photo: Daniel Gorun/Airways. Article source: IAG

Chief Online Editor
Chief Online Editor at Airways Magazine, AVSEC interpreter and visual artist; grammar geek, an avid fan of aviation, motorcycles, sci-fi literature, and film.

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