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Aviation

Air Berlin carves out first profit in five years

Cost-cutting measures and one-off effects lifted Air Berlin back into the profit zone last year. Germany's second-biggest airline appears, however, set to continue struggling in a highly competitive aviation environment.

Air Berlin booked a net profit of 6.8 million euros ($9 billion) in 2012, according to latest company figures released Friday. They point to a marked improvement in earnings after a loss of 420 million euros in the previous year.

The airline's operating profit also grew to reach 70 million euros although the number of passengers carried by Air Berlin declined 5.5 percent to 33 million. The two figures appear to indicate substantial efficiency gains were achieved by the airline in 2012.

Etihad boost

However, the profit was mainly due to a one-off financial effect resulting from the sale of Air Berlin's flight bonus program worth 184 million euros to Gulf-based Etihad airline, which became a main shareholder in Air Berlin last year.

Mindful that the "non-recurring event" contributed significantly to the result, Air Berlin Chief Executive Wolfgang Prock-Schauer said that the airline had not yet reached its target, despite the 2012 profit being the first since 2007.

The carrier calculated that recent cost cutting measures contributed about 250 million euros to the earnings, thus enabling the airline to offset 80 million euros in higher fuel prices.

In 2012, Air Berlin idled 15 aircraft while boosting capacity utilization of its remaining 155 planes to 79.8 percent. The move is part of a major restructuring drive aimed at saving 450 million euros in costs by 2014.

uhe/ipj (Reuters, dpa, AFP)

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