MIAMI – South African aviation enthusiasts and travelers are celebrating the launch earlier today of the country’s newest airline. LIFT Airline (GE) flew its inaugural flights between Johannesburg and Cape Town (with one flight flying each way) using two of its fleet of three Airbus A320-231 aircraft.

LIFT Airline is a start-up South African low-cost airline that will operate on major domestic routes from O. R. Tambo. The new airline is betting on low operating costs and oil prices to withstand an industry crisis that has left national flagship SAA struggling to survive and has sunk other low-cost carriers.

The launch comes amid questions regarding South African Airways’ (SA) bailout. In a controversial tweet, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni asked the nation if the country actually needed a national airline, adding that there should be an opportunity for a private company to fill the gap that would be left by the missing flag carrier.

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA – DECEMBER 08: A sneak preview of the brand new airline LIFT at Cape Town International Airport on December 08, 2020 in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo by Brenton Geach/Gallo Images via Getty Images

The Strategy


LIFT, founded in part by former Uber Africa executive Jonathan Ayache and Gidon Novick, who ran low-cost flyer kulala.com, said it planned to avoid a cash-heavy operational model that hit its rivals.

“We’re fortunate. Operating costs are as low as they’ve ever been. Obviously that’s subject to the exchange rate,” said Novick. “Oil prices are pretty low. Aircraft values have almost halved, and people costs are also low, so we see a real opportunity.”

According to Reuters, LIFT leased its aircraft from Global Aviation Operations, a South African-based charter firm. All of LIFT’s seats will be economy and will operate between commercial hub Johannesburg and tourist favorite Cape Town. The lift website, www.lift.co.za, also shows George, on the southern coast of the country, as a destination.

The web page discusses the consumer-oriented flexibility offered. Flight reservations and the named traveler on the ticket can be changed without penalty up to 24 hours prior to departure. Also, flights can be cancelled up to 24 hours prior to departure without penalty.

Lift Airlines website. Image: Lift Airlines

The Name


The LIFT web site says its mission is to demonstrate that South Africa can compete with the best while keeping customers at the center of its operations.

“The name LIFT is the brainchild of eight creative South Africans who participated in the country’s largest-ever naming competition. Over 25‚000 suggested names were received. Apart from capturing the marvel of the physics of flying‚ the name encapsulates a view of the world and our beautiful country.”


CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA – DECEMBER 08: A sneak preview of the brand new airline LIFT at Cape Town International Airport on December 08, 2020 in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo by Brenton Geach/Gallo Images via Getty Images