Mainland airlines recorded an operating profit of 40 million yuan (HK$45.36 million) in January as demand rebounded, according to the head of the industry regulator. Speaking on the sidelines of the National People's Congress yesterday, Li Jiaxiang, the minister of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, said airport and airline operations improved in January. The airline industry suffered a 7 billion yuan loss in the first 11 months of last year as demand for air travel slumped amid a slowing economy. However, recent figures showed business was growing again. Domestic passenger numbers jumped 21.3 per cent in January from a year ago and 13.47 per cent last month. Cargo volume also rose 6.7 per cent in February, the first growth since August last year and a sharp rebound from the 32 per cent decline in January. However, international traffic remained bleak and was down 20.06 per cent last month. Mr Li reiterated his forecast of at least 10 per cent growth in passenger numbers this year. Air China, the country's second-largest carrier, was confident of turning the loss around this year, thanks to the government's 4 trillion yuan stimulus package to boost domestic demand, chairman Kong Dong said this week. However, analysts voiced concerns that the deep discount on air fares would only boost the number of passengers, not the profit of the airlines.