British Airways has started to recover part of the 33 aircrafts. | Reuters


British Airways-owner IAG is counting on digital health passes to help spur a travel recovery this summer, after the pandemic pushed it to a record 7.4 billion euro ($9 billion) loss last year, when it ran just a third of normal flights.

Tighter travel restrictions over the last two months have threatened to ruin Europe's critical summer season and leave some airlines needing more funding, analysts have warned.

But after taking on new loans, IAG said it had 10.3 billion euros of liquidity and was well set to ride out the crisis.

"We've got very strong liquidity going into 2021 ... so no, we will not need additional funding," finance chief Steve Gunning told reporters on a call.

European airlines hope travel restrictions will soon be eased to allow them to make money again. Britain on Monday laid out plans for travel markets to possibly reopen from mid-May, prompting a flood of bookings.

IAG chief executive Luis Gallego said if the UK plans went ahead, it would be a "positive summer", but digital health passes were needed to unlock the market.

"Health passes are going to be the key to restart the aviation and the travel," said Gallego, who is six months into the job, calling for a digital system that could include test results and proof of vaccination.

Several countries are considering health passports to help revive travel, but are worried about risks to civil liberties. However, Britain's Heathrow airport warned this week that dealing with a big rise in passengers would not be possible with current paper-based checks.

IAG shares were up 4% at 194 pence in morning trading. They have jumped 13% in the last five days, after Britain's announcement on a travel restart, but over the last 12 months have lost half their value.