IAG International Airlines Group has deferred the delivery of 68 aircraft originally due to arrive between 2020 and 2022 as it does not expect demand to recover to pre-COVID levels earlier than 2023, the Anglo-Spanish holding said in its quarterly earnings release.

"We are planning for a meaningful return to service in July 2020 at the earliest, depending on the easing of lockdowns and travel restrictions around the world. We will adapt our operating procedures to ensure our customers and our people are properly protected in this new environment... However, we do not expect passenger demand to recover to the level of 2019 before 2023 at the earliest," Chief Executive Willie Walsh said during an investor call.

While the airline holding did not share which orders had been deferred specifically, it said that after the adjustments it expected deliveries of a total of 16 short-haul and 22 long-haul aircraft in 2020 (down by three in each group), six and nine in 2021 (down by 27 short-haul aircraft with no change in terms of long-haul), and 13 and nine in 2022 (down by 27 and eight, respectively).

"So six aircraft out of 2020, 27 aircraft out of 2021, and 35 aircraft out of 2022... But in addition to changing the fleet deliveries, we have significant further flexibility in our fleet, which we've talked about in the past. So we'll still look to finalize our retirement plans for our fleet," Chief Financial Officer Steve Gunning said.

The group has 42 operating leases expiring in 2021 (all but one concerning short-haul aircraft) and 54 the next year (including 47 short-haul and seven long-haul aircraft).

According to the ch-aviation fleets advanced module, British Airways (BA, London Heathrow) has outstanding orders from Airbus and Boeing for ten A320-200neo, four A321-200neo, thirteen A350-1000s, eighteen B777-9s, and twelve B787-10s. Iberia (IB, Madrid Barajas) has orders for eleven A320neo, fifteen A321neo, and thirteen A350-900s, Aer Lingus (EI, Dublin Int'l) six A321neo and five A350-900s, and Vueling Airlines (VY, Barcelona El Prat) ten A320neo and fourteen A321neo.

Walsh separately told Reuters that IAG was still in the process of acquiring Air Europa (UX, Palma de Mallorca). Recent Spanish media reports have questioned the future of the deal given the current business climate as well as purported opposition from Air France, a one-time suitor of Globalia's airline division.