British Airways owner IAG said transatlantic bookings have surged back almost to the levels seen pre-the pandemic following the end of the US ban on 8 November.

Speaking to the Airlines UK conference IAG boss Luis Gallego said: “Now as the world opens up, we are growing our capacity.

“Transatlantic bookings have already reached almost 100% of 2019 levels. I expect North Atlantic routes to reach full capacity by next summer.”

Gallego warned though Heathrow’s proposed increase in charges might force the airline to look at alternatives.

The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority has given the airport permission to raise its fees by as much as 50% more per passenger for a five-year period starting in 2022.

“If the rise in landing charges goes ahead, I know IAG would not be alone in reconsidering our airlines’ use of Heathrow as a port,” Gallego said.

“Right now, aviation is trying to emerge from its worst crisis ever. UK operators need to be able to compete.”

Tour operator TUI also said long-distance travel to the US, Maldives, Mauritius and the Dominican Republic was turning up.

“The announcement of the opening of the USA to tourists alone has spurred demand. Incoming bookings already show that clearly,” said TUI Deutschland Management Board Chairman Stefan Baumert.

Even so, shares in all of the listed airlines have been under pressure recently due to the new wave of coronavirus spreading across Europe.

IAG has shed almost 18% of its value since the start of November on worries restrictions might be tightened again and on Friday Austria announced a full lockdown with Germany said to be mulling possible compulsory vaccinations.

New restrictions in The Netherlands meanwhile have sparked outbreaks of rioting in some cities.

Reports at the weekend that the government would not hesitate to put countries back on the red list if the wave of infections continues to rise have also caused some concern among investors.

Experts said Austria, Germany, Denmark, Norway and Slovakia were all at risk of going on to the red list, with even the US an area of concern heading into Christmas.

Shares in IAG were 0.5% higher at 149.2p.

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