Air China Chairman Kong Dong said he is confident that the carrier will return to profitability in 2009, Bloomberg reported. China’s second-largest carrier last year posted an annual loss of US$1.1 billion, its first since 2004. That loss was blamed on ill-timed fuel price speculation and falling passenger volumes. Lower fuel prices and a recovery in domestic travel demand are expected to help profits this year, as are improvements in the airline’s management and cost control. Air China had earlier applied to Beijing for a cash injection, but Kong said the economic crisis had drained the government’s resources, making such a bailout “difficult.” The government this week gave a US$293 million bailout to Air China competitor China Eastern Airlines.