The owner of Glasgow and Aberdeen's main airports cut its pre-tax loss to £36 million last year as passenger numbers surged with the lifting of travel restrictions, but its £757m debt hangover from the pandemic remained a "material uncertainty".

Accounts filed at Companies House for AGS, which also owns Southampton Airport, show that passenger numbers rebounded from 3.5 million in 2021 to 9.2 million last year. That compares to 13.6 million travellers in 2019, putting the operator at 68% of pre-pandemic levels.

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Within that, Glasgow Airport led the way with a 214% surge in traffic to 6.5 million people. That was followed by an increase of 164% in Southampton where 700,000 passengers passed through the gates. 

Aberdeen Airport posted a 78% increase in numbers to two million. AGS noted that Aberdeen benefitted from strong activity in the offshore oil and gas sector.

The group's adjusted revenues for the year were 92% higher at £167m, while the previous year's operating loss of £25m was reversed into an £11m profit. After accounting for increased financing costs, the previous year's pre-tax loss of £67m narrowed to £36m.

Directors now led by Andy Cliffe, who succeeded Derek Provan as chief executive of AGS at the start of this year, said they have worked to conserve cash in response to surging inflation and higher interest rates. 

The group's debt pile of £757m is due to mature in June 2024, but having previously amended and extended its debt facility agreement in 2021, directors said they believe AGS has sufficient liquidity and covenant headroom to meet the criteria of being a "going concern" through to the end of March 2024. 

"The directors have also considered the ability of the group to refinance its loans which mature on 18 June 2024, being just outside of the going concern period," AGS said. "The external debt facilities are expected to have an outstanding balance of £757m as at the maturity date of 18 June 2024, requiring full repayment upon maturity.

"The directors are confident that new financing facilities will be concluded to support the group's operational needs beyond June 2024. The group's resilience through Covid-19, strong recovery and positive forecasts all provide the directors with confidence in a successful refinancing."

However, noting that renegotiations had yet to commence at the time of the accounts being filed, they added that a "material uncertainty exists at this time" on refinancing its debt.

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The group employed 131 people based in Glasgow last year, plus a further 59 in Aberdeen. As of the end of 2022 the deficit within its defined benefit pension scheme stood at £6m, up from £3.9m in the previous 12 months.

In June of this year Glasgow Airport agreed a a pay deal with staff that included a 7% increase in basic salary rates along with a £1,000 one-off payment. Workers benefitting from the deal included airport ambassadors, airside support officers, engineers and managers. 

Broken down by destination, 4.9 million AGS passengers last year were travelling within the UK, an increase of more than 86% on 2021. However, there was nearly a threefold increase in the number of passengers travelling abroad, up from 900,000 in 2021 to 4.3 million last year.

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Glasgow Airport has secured a number of new routes recently including last week's announcement that Wizz Air is moving its Budapest and Bucharest flights from Edinburgh to Glasgow. Matt Hazelwood, chief commercial officer at AGS, described it as "fantastic news".

In addition, Turkish Airlines has named Glasgow in its expansion plans as being among its future UK connections. 

Remuneration for directors and key management personnal at AGS fell to £774,000 last year, down from £1.46m in 2021. The highest-paid director, assumed to be Mr Provan, saw their remuneration fall from £718,000 to £571,000.