China Southern Airlines was the sole carrier among the country’s three largest operators to swing back to black in the first quarter of the year, even though they all saw  revenues improve. 

Guangzhou-based China Southern reported an operating profit of CNY1.5 billion ($207 million) in the three months to 31 March, against an operating loss of CNY1.47 billion in the year-ago period. 

China Southern Airlines Airbus A321

Source: Leony Eka Prakasa/

It recorded a 31% jump in operating revenue to CNY44.6 billion, led by an increase in passenger travel revenue as travel demand recovered. 

The jump in revenue outpaced an increase in quarterly expenses, which rose 20.7% to CNY44.1 billion. Operational costs made up most of the increase during the quarter, as the airline recovered its operations. 

China Southern eked out a small net profit of CNY756 million, compared to a net loss of CNY1.9 billion in the year-ago period. 

As for China Eastern, it was in the red at the operating level, reporting a loss of CNY872 million. This was an improvement against a CNY4 billion loss in 2023’s first quarter. 

The SkyTeam operator saw a 49% jump in revenue to CNY33.2 billion, while expenses grew 30% year on year to CNY35.4 billion. 

China Eastern also cut its net loss for the quarter to CNY803 million, down from last year’s CNY3.8 billion. 

Despite remaining loss-making, China Eastern notes its financial performance has shown “significant improvement” from the doldrums of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Air China posted an operating loss of CNY1.9 billion during the quarter, narrowing its CNY3.3 billion loss in the year-ago period. 

The Beijing-based carrier saw revenue grow almost 60% to CNY40 billion, while expenses grew about 46% year on year, to CNY43.6 billion. The airline attributes the improvement in revenue to “active investment and production, and enhanced yield level management capabilities”. 

Air China posted a net loss of CNY1.67 billion, slightly improving from 2023’s quarterly net loss of CNY2.9 billion. 

None of the ‘Big Three’ carriers offered management discussion on their results.