South African Airline Start Up Lift Completes Its First Flight

South African start-up LIFT Airline completed its maiden flight this Thursday, flying from Cape Town to Johannesburg. The airline has launched just in time for the South African summer season, remaining true to its December 10th launch date despite the global pandemic.

South African Airline Start Up Lift Completes Its First Flight
LIFT Airline will begin with domestic flights across South Africa. Photo: Getty Images

LIFT completes two flights in quick succession

The airline’s first flight took off at 06:40 local time from Cape Town, spending over 90 minutes in the air before touching down in Johannesburg at 08:16. The carrier flew with an Airbus A320 aircraft (registration ZS-GAO). With its fleet of three A320s, LIFT flights are all-economy with 174 seats.

South African Airline Start Up Lift Completes Its First Flight
One of LIFT’s Airbus A320s (ZS-GAO) which conducted the airline’s inaugural flight. Photo: Getty Images

Around an hour after the first flight took off, LIFT operated another flight heading the other way. Another A320 (registration ZS-GAL) departed Johannesburg at 07:40 and arrived in Cape Town just under two hours later at 09:38. The airline debuted its livery on Wednesday after an online competition last month allowed customers to choose their favorite.

South African Airline Start Up Lift Completes Its First Flight
LIFT and its customers went for Option A – the yellow-on-black livery. Photo: Lift via Instagram

Things are looking up for the airline

Despite the slowdown in demand for air travel, LIFT appears to be doing rather well for itself. The start-up, headed by former Uber-exec Jonathan Ayache and founder Gidon Novick, has sold over 30,000 tickets already as South Africa’s summer season arrives. The airline presently plans to operate on just a couple of routes – Cape Town to Johannesburg and Johannesburg to George.

A320 Lift
LIFT Airline got its name from a public competition. Rendering: Chris Loh

With an initial focus on popular domestic routes within South Africa, LIFT will avoid uncertainties and ever-changing regulations surrounding international travel. The airline generated huge publicity in South Africa after a competition to name the carrier saw over 25,000 suggestions. Unlike many airlines, LIFT allows passengers to change or cancel flights up to 24 hours before take-off without any surcharges. As founder Novick told The South African,

“This is a customer need that we identified which is especially important in these uncertain times.”

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LIFT will operate with a small fleet at first

According to, LIFT Airline has three Airbus A320s in its fleet. All three aircraft are over 30 years old and acquired from South African leasing firm Global Airways. Two of the three planes were used to conduct LIFT’s inaugural flights today, with the third in storage. Global Airways is known for providing ACMI (aircraft, crew, maintenance, and insurance) leasing.

South African Airline Start Up Lift Completes Its First Flight
LIFT offers many unique customer perks including free changes/cancellations and half-price for under-12s. Photo: LIFT

The carrier’s fleet consists of some of the oldest Airbus A320s in operation today. All three planes started off life under defunct U.S airline Braniff before spending time with other American carriers, including America West Airlines and American Airlines. The planes were acquired by Global Airways between 2014 to 2016 and have been leased out to a diverse set of airlines from Iraq, Turkey, Ivory Coast, and Djibouti before LIFT got hold of them.

Are you looking forward to flying with LIFT? Let us know in the comments?