Courtesy, oneworld

Oneworld member Air Berlin (AB), Germany’s second largest carrier, reported a first-quarter net loss of €102.9 million ($132.4 million), narrowed from a loss of €120.6 million in the year-ago quarter.

“We made a good start, better than expected,” AB CEO Hartmut Mehdorn told journalists during a telephone conference. He said AB will “concentrate on our Shape & Size cost-reduction program. “I think we made some good steps and we are optimistic for 2012.”

Despite systematically reducing capacity by 10.5%, the carrier said it increased sales figures in the traditionally hardest quarter for the German airline industry by 4% to €812.9 million from €781.6 million in the year-ago quarter.

“We reduced about one million seats, but we lost just 500,000 (5.8%) passengers to 6.5 million. Our fleet of 152 aircraft will be reduced significantly and there will be a smaller fleet number in the second quarter but we will produce nearly the same hours thanks to increased efficiency,” CFO Ulf Huettmeyer reported. He said AB’s load factor went up 3.9 points. to 76.4%. “These are the best results recorded for the first quarter since AB was listed on the stock exchange,” he said.

Nevertheless, AB still faces a difficult year, especially due to the German Aviation tax, which “makes it difficult to compete,” Huettmeyer said. Fuel costs increased 18% and generate €35million in additional costs for the carrier.

Mehdorn said he is expecting additional €20 million of income this year through oneworld and the cooperation with partner Etihad (ATW Daily News, March 20).

Mehdorn said he still has a cautious outlook for 2012. “There is no reason to celebrate [until we] complete our plan,” he said.