Air France-KLM on Friday reported increased first-quarter revenue ahead of the crucial summer holiday season and said it was “standing on its own feet” again after repaying all state aid received during the Covid-19 crisis.

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The Franco-Dutch group reported that strong demand saw group revenues rise 42 percent between January and March this year compared with the same period in 2022, while passenger numbers climbed by 35 percent year-on-year.
Chief executive Benjamin Smith said “very encouraging summer ticket sales” were “paving the way for a busy holiday season across our global network.”

The company posted heavy annual losses of 7.1 billion euros ($7.8 billion) in 2020 and 3.3 billion euros in 2021, forcing the company into painful cost-cutting that included slashing jobs and getting rid of unprofitable planes.

But net profit in 2022 reached 728 million euros — more than double the figure for 2019, the last pre-pandemic year — as the firm bounced back from the crisis.

The company posted a smaller loss in the first quarter of 2023 compared with last year’s figures, but the first three months of the year are usually the least profitable for airlines before the all-important summer season.

The airline also required cash injections, including a 2.5 billion euro emergency loan orchestrated by the French state, as the Covid-19 pandemic grounded flights worldwide.

The European Union had imposed restrictions as part of the state help, and their removal now allows the firm to pay dividends, increase executive pay or acquire rival carriers.

Smith said the full repayment of state aid “gives us back our full strategic autonomy. We now stand on our own feet”.