Unloved during the pandemic as their businesses were incapacitated almost overnight, airlines that cut back to survive the crisis are now blowing through profit forecasts and luring back investors.

Virgin Australia, so financially frail when COVID-19 hit in 2020 that it folded in weeks, has undergone a remarkable transformation under new owner Bain Capital. Free of much of its debt after exiting administration and with a scaled down fleet, the airline is making money for the first time in years. It plans to relist in Sydney, possibly this year.

These freshly — and forcibly — streamlined carriers are capitalizing on a surge in travel since virus restrictions fell away. The International Civil Aviation Organization expects passenger demand to recover to levels seen before COVID-19 on most routes this quarter, and then to about 3% higher than 2019 levels by year-end.