The new owner of Aer Lingus, IAG, has raised its earnings growth target for 2016-2020 to more than 12% a year.

This shows its confidence at a time when rivals are struggling to push through the sort of cost cuts it made years ago. 

IAG's focus on growing profit at its portfolio of airlines comprising British Airways, Aer Lingus and Spain's Iberia and Vueling comes as rivals Lufthansa and Air France-KLM battle with strikes and staff opposition to cost cuts. 

Lufthansa warned today it would likely cancel most short-haul flights later in the day after its main cabin crew union were called to strike. 

It has already been hit by over a dozen pilot walkouts in the last 18 months. 

Air France, meanwhile, has had to lower its sights on cost cuts after negotiations ended with managers fleeing a meeting with angry employees and scrambling over fences. 

IAG boss Willie Walsh has been praised by investors for managing to cut costs at both BA and Iberia since the pair sealed an $8 billion merger in 2011. 

IAG moved - before its French and German rivals - to become more competitive against Gulf carriers on long-haul routes and low-cost airlines such as EasyJet in Europe.

Issuing a series of improved financial metrics ahead of an investor event today, IAG said it would aim for average annual earnings per share growth of more than 12%, up from the 10%-plus figure previously targeted over the 2016-2020 period.

IAG also said it was planning for an operating profit margin of 12-15%, up from guidance of 10-14%, and return on invested capital of 15%, compared with an earlier goal of 12% plus. 

At today's investor day, analysts are expecting the airline to reveal further details of potential savings from IAG's €1.3 billion acquisition of Aer Lingus, finalised in August. 

IAG also said today that Alex Cruz, current chief executive of Vueling would next year replace Keith Williams as executive chairman of British Airways as Mr Williams retires.  

Strong passenger growth at IAG

IAG carried 8.5 million passengers in October, a 23% increase on the same month in 2014.

Passenger numbers for the first ten months of the year are also up, rising to 74.7 millio passengers from 65.8 million for the same period last year.

Meanwhile, flight load factor at the group has risen this year and stood 81.9% at the end of October, an increase of 1.2% on the first ten months of 2014.