Air finance summit tackles jet shortages amid China travel thaw

By Tim Hepher and Joanna Plucinska DUBLIN (Reuters) - Financiers at the centre of a $200 billion industry underpinning airline fleets are meeting in Dublin this week,

gambling that China's decision to free travel will accelerate their recovery from a pandemic downturn, while warning of a shortage of jets. Three years after the spread of

COVID-19 grounded thousands of airliners, demand for air travel is booming again, boosted by Beijing's decision last month to unwind its zero-COVID policies. In a report on

Monday, the world's second-largest aircraft leasing company, Chinese-owned Avolon, predicted global traffic would return to pre-pandemic levels as early as June this year - months

earlier than most in the industry have predicted. The International Air Transport Association, which represents global airlines, is predicting full recovery in

2024. "After a 70% recovery in passenger traffic last year led by ... Europe and North America, Asia will drive growth in 2023, helped by the recent reopening in China,"

Avolon said. Data so far suggests Chinese are resuming travel ahead of the Lunar New Year, despite worries about infections after Beijing ended curbs last month, with

passenger traffic jumping to 63% of 2019 levels since the annual travel season began. Others are not so upbeat. "Airlines are not dramatically increasing their

frequency to China. It's going in the right direction but ... it's going to take some time," said aviation adviser Bertrand Grabowski. The crippling impact of COVID-19 saw

dozens of airlines go out of business and wiped billions of dollars off balance sheets.