By Tsvetana Paraskova Airlines are back to hedging the price of fuel to protect themselves from higher oil prices next year, although the hedges are less risky and for shorter periods as uncertainty remains over when airline travel will return to pre-COVID levels. During the pandemic, the industry is estimated to have lost around $5 billion in total on forward hedges of the price of fuel, which hardly anyone needed last year with international flights grounded. Now some of the major airlines in Europe, as well as budget airlines, are back to hedging to protect themselves from higher oil prices, Bloomberg reports. “We continue to see significant opportunities to buy fuel forward,” Ryanair’s CEO Michael O’Leary said on a call this week, as carried by Bloomberg. Ryanair’s air traffic rebounded by 128 percent between April and September 2021 compared to the same period of 2020, the company said in its half-year results for its fiscal year 2022 ending on April 30, 2022. For the fourth quarter of FY 2022, Ryanair’s fuel requirements are 80 percent hedged. Others are more cautious after the pandemic hit them with huge losses on top of losses from fuel hedges, according to Bloomberg. Airlines are cautiously optimistic about the rise in demand seen in recent months, yet no one is certain when airline traffic—and jet fuel demand—will return to pre-crisis levels. Air France—KLM, for example, noted the reopening of Canada and the U.S. for European citizens, and the reopening of Singapore. Lufthansa said this week that at the end of the third quarter, new bookings had already reached around 80 percent of the 2019 level. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) noted on Wednesday “a moderate rebound in air travel in September 2021 compared to August.” “The recent US policy change to reopen travel from 33 markets for fully vaccinated foreigners from 8 November is a welcome, if long overdue, development. Along with recent re-openings in other key markets like Australia, Argentina, Thailand, and Singapore, this should give a boost to the large-scale restoration of the freedom to travel,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.