Spanish airline Iberia announced Thursday that it posted a record operating loss in 2009, as the financial downturn took a huge slice of demand away from the airline.

IberiaIberia saw a net loss of 273 million euros in 2009, with a loss of 91 million euros in the fourth quarter alone. Revenues at the Spanish airline were down 19 per cent, to 4.4 billion euros.

The company described 2009 as “one of the worst years in its history” and says it expects to see a definitive deal with BA over the coming weeks. A successful merger between the two airlines would create the world’s third largest airline by revenue.

Ownership of the new company would be split with BA shareholders holding 55 per cent of the new company and Iberia shareholders 45 per cent.

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