DALLAS (AP) — Southwest Airlines said Wednesday that it is bringing back dividends for shareholders, which it suspended when the pandemic devastated the airline business in early 2020.
Dallas-based Southwest said in a regulatory filing that it will pay a quarterly dividend of 18 cents per share on Jan. 31.
The move comes as air travel rebounds and U.S. airlines return to profitability due to full planes and sharply higher fares than a year ago.
Southwest has posted the highest net income among U.S. airlines in the first nine months of this year, reporting a $759 million profit in that span.
CEO Robert Jordan said the decision to restore the dividend reflect a strong return in demand for travel and Southwest’s “solid” financial results since March.
U.S. airlines were barred from paying dividends or buying back their own stock until October, as a condition of taking $54 billion in federal pandemic aid. None have yet announced share buybacks.
Southwest repeated its previous forecast that fourth-quarter revenue will rise by up to 17% over the same period in 2019.
Jordan said last week that Southwest is unable to use 40 to 45 of its 700-plus airplanes because it doesn’t have enough pilots to fly them. The airline has been hiring, but is in the process of training more pilots. Southwest said in Wednesday’s filing that it expects to increase passenger-carrying capacity next year by up to 15%.
Airline executives were scheduled to discuss the outlook later Wednesday at an investor conference.