Asiana posts 1st profit in 3 quarters

SEOUL, South Korea — Asiana Airlines Inc. reported its first profitable quarter this year as travel peaked during the fall holidays.

South Korea’s second-largest airline said Friday that its July-September quarter earnings of 82.8 billion won ($77.8 million) were up 3.3 percent over a year earlier. But third-quarter operating income plunged 42 percent to 63.4 billion won while sales dropped 3 percent to 1.52 trillion won.

The carrier is the operator of the Boeing 777 that crash landed in San Francisco on July 6, killing three and injuring dozens.

Asiana said the weak yen continued to dampen travel demand from Japan, while other overseas passengers increased as demand typically rises during the third quarter.

Despite an overall increase in passengers during the fall peak season and long holidays in South Korea, analysts said Asiana likely suffered a drop in air fares and freight charges due to heightened competition from budget airlines.

Asiana Airlines makes more than half of its revenue from overseas flights. This year, the company’s passenger business was hit by lower demand for flights from Japan to South Korea because of the weaker yen and belligerent rhetoric from North Korea threatening a nuclear war.

The company remained in red for the first nine months of this year, with a net loss totaling 45.6 billion won.

Even after the deadly San Francisco crash, Asiana likely maintained passenger numbers at levels comparable with a year earlier, said Yoon Hee-do, an analyst at Korea Investment &Securities. But fares dropped sharply, he said.

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