International Airlines Group, formed by the merger of BA and Iberia, posted a small rise in traffic in January, boosted by strong growth in first and business class passengers.

Traffic, measured in revenue passenger kilometres (RPK), rose by 1.1 percent versus January 2011, while passenger load factor -- a measure of how well it fills its planes -- was up 200 basis points at 75.7 percent, it said on Friday.

IAG said its first and business-class travel -- the most profitable part of its passenger business - rose 3.8 percent, while non-premium traffic was up 0.7 percent.

Earlier this week industry body IATA said airlines faced over $8 billion in overall losses this year if the euro zone turmoil in Europe turned into a full banking crisis.

Even in the best-case scenario, the global industry was likely to see a decline in profit from $6.9 billion in 2011 to $3.5 billion in 2012, it added.

IAG, which recently agreed to buy Lufthansa's British unit bmi, reported a 31 percent fall in third-quarter profit, better than expected and outperforming peers. However, its traffic growth has slowed in recent months.

It is due to release full-year results on February 29.

IAG shares, which have risen 14 percent in the last three months, were up 2.2 percent to 188.45 pence by 1530 GMT, valuing the company at around 3.5 billion pounds.

(Reporting by Matt Scuffham and Rhys Jones; editing by James Davey)