PARIS (Reuters) – Air France-KLM posted a first-quarter core profit that landed ahead of its own forecasts, fuelled by a recovery in ticket sales and lower unit costs, the Franco-Dutch airline group said on Thursday.

Chief Executive Benjamin Smith said “recovery is here” amid strong forward bookings. “This paves the way for a successful summer season,” he said in a statement.

The company flagged strong demand trends in March, despite the continued impact of COVID-19 and a short slowdown after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in late February.

The conflict has destabilised global oil prices and caused airlines to suspend flights and plan longer routes to avoid Russian and Ukrainian airspace, but hedging fuel costs and fare hikes helped Air France-KLM soften the hit to its earnings.

The company posted a third straight quarter of positive earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, (EBITDA), reaching 221 million euros compared to the 628 million euros loss it recorded last year.

(Reporting by Sarah Morland, Editing by Tim Hepher and Tassilo Hummel)