Air travel to return to pre-pandemic levels by June – but where will planes fit in the sky?

Air travel will rebound to pre-pandemic levels by June after China reversed its zero-Covid policy, according to one of the world's biggest owners of aircraft. China's

decision to reopen its borders will propel passenger numbers to 2019 levels for the first time in four years, according to Avolon, the world’s third-largest aircraft leasing

company. Andy Cronin, Avolon chief executive, said that although “geopolitical and macroeconomic risks remain... China’s reopening [will help] drive global traffic levels to

pre-pandemic levels by June”. A resurgent Chinese market will put pressure on the skies above Europe, which are already congested because of Vladimir Putin's war, and may

force carriers to fly over Russia and Ukraine. Most airlines also halted flying over Russia, Ukraine and Belarus in the wake of Mr Putin’s invasion 11 months

ago. Beijing, however, has been able to avoid the issue because of restrictions imposed on the Chinese population to control coronavirus outbreaks. But with

restrictions eased, Chinese airlines are now expected to return to the skies in force and fly over Russia – handing the Kremlin billions of pounds in so-called “overflight”

charges in the process. In 2019, Russian overflight charges generated $1.7bn, the largest bounty globally, according to UN sponsored body ICAO. Sir Richard Branson,

the founder of Virgin Atlantic, has suggested that the West should look into restricting airlines from China that fly over Russia. But Willie Walsh, the head of airlines

lobby group IATA, has said that carriers will have to return to flying over Russia to avoid significant disruption across European pinch points as demand returns.