Spanish airline Iberia SA, poised to merge with British Airways PLC, reported on Friday a loss of euro16.4 million ($24.5 million) in the third quarter, compared to a profit of euro30.4 million a year earlier, as the economic crisis sapped demand for air travel.

Iberia, which announced the preliminary merger agreement with British Airways on Thursday night, said passenger traffic continued to fall, particularly in business travel. It recorded 13.4 billion passenger kilometers travelled in the third quarter, down 6.0 percent from the same period of 2008.

The airline’s yield — a measure of revenue taken in kilometers travelled per passenger — dropped 13.8 percent for the third quarter and 13.4 percent for the first nine months. It said this was due in part to stiff price competition in most markets.

Iberia’s load factor — a measure of how much of its seat capacity is filled — fell 1.1 percentage points to 82.1 percent, although Iberia said this is above the average for major European airlines. International routes saw a sharp decline, while passenger cabins on domestic and European flights were significantly fuller than a year ago.

The company said it lost euro181.9 million in the first nine months of the year, compared to profits of euro51.1 million in the same stretch of 2008.

Operating revenue fell 20 percent in the third quarter, and by 19 percent in the January-September period. This was due mainly to a 22 percent decline in air traffic revenues.

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