LIFT CEO reflects on the journey of the carrier as it celebrates three years

LIFT’s co-branded celebratory aircraft livery with the Walt Disney Company Africa. l SUPPLIED

LIFT’s co-branded celebratory aircraft livery with the Walt Disney Company Africa. l SUPPLIED

Published Dec 7, 2023


LIFT has solidified its place as a prominent player in the local airline industry using its Premium offering.

Three years after launching in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, the carrier’s commitment to service and true flexibility has won the hearts of both locals and travellers from abroad.

The airline will celebrate its three-year anniversary after lifting off into South African skies on Sunday, December 10.

Since it’s first take-off, LIFT has evolved to now offering up to 28 flights per day, with up to five operational aircraft used in line with the company’s flexible model, which allows easy scaling of aircraft, up or down, to match traveller demand.

According to the carrier, it has tripled the number of flights offered since 2021 and has increased its footprint to operate along the “golden triangle” of Johannesburg, Durban, and Cape Town.

It also saw a significant milestone in May this year, when it signed a lease agreement for an Airbus A320-200 with AerCap, the world’s largest owner of commercial aircraft and a leader in aviation leasing.

With more than 14 500 flights under their belt since December 2020, LIFT has flown over 2.1 million passengers over 13 million kilometres. That’s equivalent to 324 trips around the Earth.

The carrier also transported around 1.7 million bags and adding to these numbers, are the more than 2 500 pups on board since LIFT introduced pet-friendly flights for small dogs in April 2021.

“It’s surreal to celebrate our third birthday. On the one hand, we’ve just begun, and on the other, we’ve already made significant accomplishments,” said Jonathan Ayache, LIFT CEO.

Ayache credited the airline’s success to its passionate, customer-obsessed team on the ground and in the air, and its focus on the traveller experience.

This includes hassle-free changes and cancellations, industry-leading legroom and free vida e caffè coffee and snacks included in the fare at no extra charge.

He said these offerings have brought back an enjoyable flight experience to the market.

“That combined with the incredible team who provide excellent service to our passengers, creates the LIFT experience customers have come to love and expect,” he said.

Founded in 2020, and taking to the skies in only 90 days, LIFT forever changed the way flights are booked, changed, and cancelled in South Africa.

“Before LIFT, flexible flights were unaffordable and a nightmare to change; often it was cheaper to book an entirely new flight.

“We were the first to offer real flexibility when people needed it most; from easy, online bookings to fee-free changes and cancellations. And we’re still the only SA airline to offer true flexibility,” said Ayache.

LIFT has also adapted to respond to booking agents. The company recently announced that it would immediately distribute directly via Amadeus GDS under its own GE code to the SA market.

Having a full presence on the GDS makes it easy for agents to book LIFT via their preferred booking channel.

“Something which we’re notably proud of is our relationship with other South African brands. We’re passionate about supporting ‘local’, which is evident in our partnerships with Veldskoen for our crew kit and with K9 Search and Rescue Association of South Africa (K9SARA-SA) to help expedite a response in disaster situations, by flying working dogs to search and rescue locations,” said Ayache.

LIFT has and continues to support local talent. In October, Zolani Mohola joined the skies to surprise LIFT travellers with a Silent Disco performance.

Earlier in the year, LIFT partnered with “SA MasterChef” winner, Shawn Godfrey, to elevate the Premium dining experience with uniquely South African cuisine.

Ayache also revealed that he was pleased the team’s efforts had been recognised, with the recent receipt of the award for the Best Domestic Airline on the continent at the international World Luxury Travel Awards in November.

“I think this speaks to the service we provide our passengers; our staff aims for excellence, which, apart from their friendly demeanour, is evident within the average response of less than four minutes to WhatsApp customer queries,” says Ayache.

LIFT’s largest and most spectacular campaign to date was certainly the recent unveiling of a co-branded celebratory aircraft livery with the Walt Disney Company Africa.

“Partnering with a global brand like Disney to elevate family travel has been special. The aircraft is popular and promises to continue to delight both adults and children during the upcoming season of school holidays and family celebrations,” he said.

And finally, looking forward to 2024, Ayache is optimistic about an increase in business travel.

He said that while leisure travel had recovered well post-pandemic, contributing to strong seasonal peaks, business travel, the backbone of the industry, is yet to fully recover.

“The pandemic brought about a shift in behaviour, leading to a prevalence of online meetings and the adoption of flexible work models, affecting the pace of recovery in business travel. However, this is still in flux, and we may well see increased business travel in 2024.

“We look forward to the new year and we’re committed to adapting our offering and providing solutions for the evolving needs of the travelling public,” said Ayache.