Air Canada said Friday that ticket sales have started to take off following labour woes at the country's biggest airlines earlier this year.

Customer confidence was shaken in recent months after the airline's employees staged a number of illegal work stoppages, prompting frustrated passengers to scramble to find alternative arrangements.

"Our operations were disrupted by job action by a number of unionized employees, which resulted in a decline in bookings for travel originating in Canada in the immediate aftermath of these incidents," Calin Rovinescu, president and chief executive, said in a news release. "Since then, we have seen an improvement in advance booking trends."

The most recent disruption, which began on April 13, grounded about 10 per cent of its 660 mainline flights after a number of pilots called in sick. Pilots have grown frustrated with a number of issues including the length of time it is taking to ink a new labour agreement.

Earlier this week, Labour Minister Lisa Raitt appointed arbitrators in the disputes between Air Canada and two of its unions. The groups had been waiting for the minister to appoint the officials before resuming talks.

Raitt sent the matter to the Canada Industrial Relations Board last month preventing a strike by the workers or a lock out by the company.

"We are focused on maintaining the confidence of our customers and on continuing to work with all stakeholders to ensure Air Canada is competitively positioned for sustainable, long-term growth," Rovinescu said.

Though the company has so far weathered the labour storm, the head of the beleaguered company said that it should not become complacent.

"Our brand is strong and resilient but we cannot take it for granted or our customers for granted, nor will we," CEO Calin Rovinescu said Friday after the airline reported deeper losses in the first quarter.

"Following this turbulent period we are focusing on achieving a climate of labour stability in restoring the confidence of our customers."

Rovinescu's confidence comes despite another troubling weak performance for the airline on the back of high fuel costs which saw a 20-per cent rise in fuel during the quarter compared with the same period a year earlier.

Air Canada reported a first-quarter net loss of $210 million, compared with a loss of $19 million for the same time a year earlier.

The wider loss came despite a five per cent rise in the key passenger revenue per available seat mile, a measure of the company's efficiency.