SEOUL, April 11 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s flagship carrier Korean Air Lines Co. is expected to have turned a profit in the first quarter of 2021, data showed Sunday, as the company expanded its logistics business after the new coronavirus pandemic virtually suspended passenger travel.

The country’s top airline operator is expected to post an operating profit of 76.6 billion won (US$68.3 million) for the January-March period, compared with a loss of 82.3 billion won posted a year earlier, according to a poll released by Yonhap Infomax, the financial arm of Yonhap News Agency.

Sales, meanwhile, were estimated to have decreased 26 percent over the period to 1.7 trillion won.

Industry watchers attributed the robust outlook to the strong performance of Korean Air’s logistics business.

Airplanes are parked at Gimpo International Airport, western Seoul, in this file photo taken Feb. 23, 2021. (Yonhap)

“The amount of cargo handled by Korean Air reached a record high amount last month,” NH Investment & Securities Co. said in its report. “The disturbed travel at the Suez Canal led to more demand for air shipping services.”

Asiana Airlines Inc., which awaits a merger with its bigger rival Korean Air, is expected to post a profit in the first quarter, compared with the previous year’s loss of 70.3 billion won.

South Korea’s low-cost carriers, on the other hand, are estimated to have logged sluggish earnings over the first quarter due to their strong dependence on passenger travel.

According to the poll, Jin Air Co. is expected to post an operating loss of 37.6 billion won for the January-March period, expanding its loss from 31.3 billion won posted last year.

T’way Air Co., another budget airliner, was expected to have posted an operating loss of 31.4 billion won, also expanding from the previous year’s loss of 22.3 billion won.

The first-quarter operating loss of Jeju Air Co. was estimated at 62.9 billion won, remaining nearly unchanged from the previous year’s performance.