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British Airways Profit Rises, Business Class Strong

British Airways reported a 28.5 percent rise in operating profit for the first nine months of its financial year, and said its longhaul premium business was still shrugging off weakness in financial markets.

Analysts had voiced concerns the airline would be hit by a downturn in corporate travel from the United States to Europe after the failure of business-class-only airline MAXjet in December.

Operating profit reached 734 million pounds ($1.5 billion) in the nine months to Dec. 31, compared with an average forecast of 737 million from analysts, and up from 571 million a year ago.

"Longhaul premium traffic continues to be strong," it said in a statement. "We have seen some fall in non-premium bookings in the January booking period compared to last year."

The carrier said it was launching an all-business-class service next year between London City airport, close to the capital's financial district, and New York on Airbus A318 aircraft.

The Boeing 777 damaged in last month's accident at Heathrow airport has been written off by underwriters and the insurance claim agreed in full, with no material impact on its results.

The airline said full-year fuel costs were now expected to be more than 100 million pounds above last year's, but would be offset by cost-cutting elsewhere.

"Our ability to mitigate rising fuel costs next year will be challenging," it added.