SEOUL, May 17 (Yonhap) — Asiana Airlines Inc., South Korea’s second-biggest airline, said Monday its net losses narrowed in the first quarter from a year earlier as increased cargo sales helped offset a slump in passenger travel.

Net losses stood at 230.4 billion won (US$202.9 million) in the January-March period, compared with a loss of 549 billion won a year earlier, the company said in a separate financial statement.

Operating loss narrowed to 11.2 billion won in the first three months of the year from an operating loss of 208.2 billion won over the cited period. Sales 30.6 percent on-year to 783.4 billion won, the carrier said.

Asiana has suspended most of its flights on international routes since March last year as many countries restricted cross-border travel amid virus fears.

To ride out the COVID-19 crisis, Asiana said it has converted four passenger jets into cargo planes to boost sales from its freight business in line with rising cargo demand for IT, electronics, protective equipment and other items.

Shares of Asiana rose 3.64 percent to 15,650 won on the Seoul bourse, outperforming the broader market’s 0.6 percent fall.

Asiana Airlines Inc.'s cargo terminal at the Incheon International Airport, South Korea's gateway, is seen in this photo taken on April 15, 2021. (Yonhap)