Sharjah-based airline Air Arabia has recorded a 17.5 per cent increase in passenger numbers in the first quarter of 2013, compared with the same quarter last year.

The low-cost airline carried a record 1,455,783 passengers in the period up to the end of March. The growth in passenger numbers is partly due to the airline increasing the number of routes it offers.

In the first quarter of this year, the airline launched flights from its Sharjah base to Sialkot in Pakistan, Baghdad in Iraq and Mattala in Sri Lanka.

The airline now serves a total of 85 routes from its hubs in UAE, Morocco and Egypt.

Air Arabia recorded a total of 5.3 million passengers in 2012, a 13 per cent increase on the previous year. Increased passenger traffic has helped boost airline profits, with the company posting a net profit of AED425m ($116m) last year, an increase of more than 50 per cent on 2011.