Korean airlines' earnings improved in the first quarter of this year thanks to a rise in the number of Chinese tourists and a strong won.

Korean Air on Thursday said its first-quarter operating profit totaled W21.2 billion, swinging back into the black from a W146.6 billion loss during the same period last year (US$1=W1,027).

Sales rose 1.8 percent to W2.9 trillion, but the company posted a net loss of W155.8 billion, half the loss a year ago (W303.4 billion).

Rival Asiana Airlines said its first quarter operating loss shrank to W2.1 billion from a W21.1 billion loss a year ago. Sales dropped 0.4 percent to W1.4 trillion, while net loss narrowed to W46.6 billion, down W1.6 billion compared to the same period a year ago.

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