SHARES in easyJet closed up 4% last night after the airline roared back into profit and announced a further expansion of its presence at Glasgow Airport, while rewarding investors with the resumption of dividend payments.

The Luton-based airline highlighted a record summer performance as it defied higher fuel costs to report a pre-tax profit of £455 million for the year ended September 30, following a loss of £178m the previous time.

The company’s results were propelled by a 19% hike in passenger numbers 82.8 million during what was a first year without travel restrictions since before the pandemic.

Total revenue rose to £8.17 billion – £2.4bn higher than the previous year – as the airline highlighted a strong contribution from easyJet Holidays. Its package holiday business beat market expectations to deliver pre-tax profits of £122m, up from £38m last time.

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easyJet, which has expanded its routes from Scottish airports significantly in recent months, cautioned that the conflict in the Middle East will have an impact on its early winter results for its current financial year. It added that the conflict did have a broader impact on near-term flight searches and bookings across the industry, and while there has been a recent improvement in trading it does not expect its loss for the first quarter to be less than last year’s deficit.

However, the airline said the strength of bookings for summer 2024, coupled with supply constraints in Europe, provided a positive outlook for the year as a whole.

The company cheered investors by reinstating dividends at 4.5p per share, which will be payable in early 2024, and raised the prospect of increasing the level of future returns. This will assessed in the coming years, it said.

Sophie Lund-Yates, lead equity analyst at stockbroker Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “easyJet has once again shown how its best-in-class operation has set it up for success. The group’s measured expansion at high-calibre airports has proved an especially shrewd move, as has the supercharged effort to push easyJet holidays. In a time when cost and convenience are the ultimate precursors to whether or not customers will splash on a trip, easyJet has been able to scoop up lots of existing demand in its net.”

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Ms Lund-Yates added: “easyJet is adamant that households will continue to prioritise travel in the new financial year. There are early indication’s that’s true, but that could change at short notice if the UK folds into recession. The conflict in the Middle East also has the potential to dent performance and will need monitoring closely.”

The airline’s results coincided with an announcement that it will add a sixth aircraft to its Glasgow base from next summer in a move it said would create around 40 jobs and offer customers in Scotland more choice and greater connectivity across the UK.

The move follows what the airline declared had been its biggest ever summer flying programme in Scotland, which saw it carry a record seven million passengers to and from the country in its 2023 financial year. Six new routes have been added during 2023, with connections between Edinburgh and Rovaniemi, Lapland, due to take off in December, and flights to Rome, Larnaca, and Enfidha from Glasgow beginning from next summer.

The airline currently employs around 685 crew in Scotland, with the arrival of the new aircraft taking its employee base in Glasgow to nearly 300, including pilots, cabin crew, and base management.

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Ali Gayward, easyJet UK country manager, said: “We are proud to be Scotland’s largest airline and are delighted to have carried a record 7 million customers in our last financial year, offering a fantastic network of 84 routes across four Scottish airports - Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Inverness.

“We continue to see opportunity in Scotland which is why we are pleased to be basing an additional aircraft in Glasgow from next summer to offer our customers even more choice, like our new routes to Enfidha and Larnaca, providing more connectivity to popular destinations across the UK, Europe and beyond, all with great value fares and a warm welcome onboard.”

Matt Hazelwood, chief commercial officer at AGS Airports, owner of Glasgow Airport, said: “easyJet’s decision to introduce a sixth based aircraft is a huge endorsement of our continued recovery and testament to a fantastic relationship between the airline and Glasgow Airport that stretches back more than 27 years to the airline’s inaugural flight.

“This is a significant investment given that the introduction of a yet another based aircraft brings with it and will support approximately 40 new jobs at Glasgow Airport.

“It has been a bumper year for both airport and airline not only celebrating the 40-million passenger landmark earlier this year, but we also welcome a number of new routes which are proving popular with our passengers.”

easyJet now has 15 aircraft based in Scotland operating across 84 routes, connecting the country to major European cities like Paris and Amsterdam, leisure hotspots such as Alicante, Tunisia, Turkey, and Egypt. It also runs flights to ski routes including Lyon, Basel, and Geneva.

Shares in easyJet closed up 16.2p, or 4%, at 421.2p.