Jet2’s European Vacation Bookings Spur 44% Gain in Dart Earnings, the U.K. discount airline specializing in flights from northern England, spurred annual earnings at parent Dart Group Plc 44 percent following a surge in bookings to its European holiday destinations.

Dart’s pretax profit jumped to 40.5 million pounds ($61 million) in the 12 months ended March 31, it said today in a statement, with sales gaining 27 percent to 869 million pounds and beating the 755 million-pound average estimate of analysts.

Jet2, which serves eight northern bases with its main hub at Leeds-Bradford airport, lifted scheduled passenger numbers 13 percent to 4.84 million, while the Jet2holidays vacation unit almost doubled the customer total to more than 417,000. Dart raise its dividend almost 50 percent to 1.33 pence per share.

“Overall demand for seats, boosted by demand from Jet2holidays, resulted in higher load factors and increased yield,” Chairman Philip Meeson said in the release, adding that the airline arm has boosted capacity 12 percent this summer.

Dart shares rose as much as 8.8 percent, the biggest gain since May 13, and were trading 7.9 percent higher at 233 pence as of 8:44 p.m. in London, taking gains this year to 85 percent and valuing the company at 338 million pounds.

Jet2holidays will maintain growth in the current year, with forward bookings “at encouraging levels,” Meeson said, though margins at the airline business, which operated 45 Boeing Co. single-aisle jets in the fiscal year, will remain “challenging.”

Dart said that revenue from postal flights performed for Britain’s Royal Mail will decline after the airline was told it will retain only six of eight routes and that current contracts, due to expire next year, will be put out to competitive tender.

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