Sharjah-based low-cost airline Air Arabia has posted a net profit of AED59m ($16m) for the first quarter of this year, marking an increase of 20 per cent compared with the same quarter last year.

The airline recorded a profit of AED49m in the first three months of 2012.

Air Arabia’s turnover for the first quarter this year stands at AED722m, an increase of 22 per cent compared with the AED594m recorded in the same period last year.

Passenger numbers hit 1.4 million for the first quarter, the highest number carried by the airline since 2003 and an 18 per cent increase in numbers compared with same period last year.

The airline also achieved an average seat load factor of 82 per cent.

The airline is continuing to expand its fleet and network of destinations. It launched four new desintations and increased the frequency of flights to Beirut, Salalah and Dhaka in the first quarter.

It also took delivery of two aircraft from Airbus and is set to receive four more A320 aircraft later this year.