FRANKFURT: Germany's leading airline Lufthansa posted Thursday a first-quarter net loss of 256 million euros (290 million dollars), compared with a profit of 44 million euros in the same period a year earlier.

On Wednesday, Lufthansa had reported an operating loss of 44 million euros in the first three months of the year, and said it expected a drop in 2009 sales owing to a dip in short-term demand for flights.

Finance director Stephan Gemkow was quoted by a statement Thursday as saying that "the current crisis is putting a strain on our profits," but he added that the group was well positioned to weather the storm.

"Now we will see who is prepared and able to react effectively against these difficult conditions. Lufthansa is a strong company and can hold its course, even in difficult times," Gemkow said.

For 2009, the airline warned of "a considerable reduction in the operating result" but the finance director said Lufthansa should "maintain a significantly positive operating result, even in this environment."

The carrier benefitted from a sharp drop in fuel costs, which shed 31 percent to 739 million euros, but also suffered a decline in the number of passengers and freight carried.

Traffic sales fell by 14.6 percent from the first quarter of 2008 to 3.8 billion euros, the statement said.