Air China saw its profits rise 147% to US$148 million in the first three months of 2008, thanks to strong passenger growth and renminbi appreciation, Bloomberg reported. The carrier flew 8.3 million passengers over the period, up 5.7% year-on-year, while cargo volume rose 1.3% to 219,997 metric tons. Air China also filled 77.1% of available seats in the first quarter. China Southern, the nation’s biggest carrier, filled 74% of available seats and China Eastern, the third-largest, filled 71.8%. The yuan appreciated 4% against the US dollar over the same period, cutting the value of the airlines’ dollar-denominated debts. Air China made a currency gain of US$290 million last year due to the strengthening yuan. Renminbi appreciation was also the main reason why China Southern recorded a first-quarter profit, compared with the loss seen in the same period of 2007.