Norwegian Air Shuttle says its first-quarter revenues and earnings soared compared with a year ago thanks to a 23 percent jump in passenger numbers and a cost reduction program.

The fast-growing budget airline says that profit for the quarter more than doubled over the past year to reach $32.4 million (197 million kroner), while sales jumped 27 percent to reach $660 million (4 billion kroner).

Norwegian said Thursday that it handled 5.5 million passengers in the three-month period and the load factor was 77 percent, up one percentage point from the second quarter in 2012.

The low-cost airline, which is based in a suburb of Oslo, mainly flies in Europe but in recent months has launched long-distance flights to North America and Southeast Asia.

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Photo Credit: Norwegian Air Shuttle's Boeing 737 Aero Icarus / Flickr