Airbus SE handed over about 72 aircraft last month, according to people familiar with the matter, stepping up deliveries even as coronavirus flare-ups pushed back a recovery in air travel.

Handovers have gradually picked up over the first three months of 2021, with the March tally marking the best performance so far this year, said the people, who asked not to be named before the figures are audited.

The European planemaker’s quarterly total -- which could change slightly before being finalized -- surpassed the 122 aircraft delivered in the year-ago period, largely before the pandemic took hold.

The uptick will ease concerns about Airbus’s inventory of undelivered aircraft, which stood at about 100 in mid-February. Matching deliveries with build rates is vital for the manufacturer as it seeks to ramp up output of its flagship A320 family of aircraft during the third quarter.

A spokesman for Toulouse, France-based Airbus declined to comment ahead of the official publication of the monthly results later Thursday.

Reuters reported Wednesday that Airbus deliveries for the first quarter may have reached or eclipsed the 2020 total.