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China airline trio suffers first profit drop in 5 years

Soaring fuel prices and weak yuan take a bite out of earnings

A delivery ceremony for the first Boeing 737 Max 8 passenger jet, which was grounded after two crashes, for Air China last year.   © Reuters

GUANGZHOU -- Aggregate net profit at three major Chinese airlines fell 34% in 2018, the first drop in five years, as higher fuel costs offset healthy demand for Asian travel.

China Southern Airlines' operating revenue climbed 12% to 143.62 billion yuan ($21.4 billion), but its net profit plunged 51% to 2.89 billion yuan. China Eastern Airlines' bottom line also decreased by roughly half. Air China's net profit edged up 1.5% to 7.35 billion yuan even as revenue jumped 13% to 136.77 billion yuan.

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