On 10 November 2022, South Africa’s newest airline, Lift, announced it would expand its offering to include a Durban – Cape Town route before the December holiday season. Now this has come to fruition with the first passengers between these top tourist cities departing on 25 November.
This comes as a relief to both holidaymakers and the beleaguered tourism industry who desperately need a bumper festive season to see them through.
Lift flights from Durban to Cape Town officially complete the so-called Golden Triangle between South Africa’s major airports for this fledgeling airline, initiated in 2020. Lift will take on the 1,000km route twice daily departing Cape Town at 6am and 3pm and returning from Durban at 9am and 6pm.
In 2019, this route had 330,000 departing seats available to passengers, but recent airline closures have reduced this to just 245,000 seats in 2022. So, while demand is still frenetic, Lifts new route brings some relief to travellers.
These flights will feature all the usual attractions of flying with Lift such as unlimited penalty-free changes, zero cancellation fees, refunds into the Lift Wallet, and complimentary snacks and coffee.
In a recent interview with Lift CEO, Jonathan Avache, the executive announced that Lift flights from Durban to Cape Town would also offer a genuine business class option, called Lift Premium.
A final attraction for passengers wanting to travel this route is the advent of dog-friendly flights, allowing small pets to share cabin space with their owners.
In the last 24 months, since Avache and Gidon Novak founded it, Lift has experienced its fair share of turbulence, along with other players in the industry. For starters, the team decided to launch their new airline in the middle of a global pandemic, at a time when airlines across the world were struggling to stay aloft.
Despite this, Novak and Avache managed to get their new airline off the ground within 90 days. Part of the reason for this was lack of competition at the time. SAA and Comair weren’t flying, leaving a massive gap in the market that Lift was eager to fill.
Not only were there plenty of eager passengers to serve, but there was also a wealth of experienced airline personnel available to staff their operations. Add to this an abundance of operating leases and you have the secret to Lifts rapid rise in the market.
The possibility that Comair and SAA might return to the market only fuelled their determination to get started as fast as they could. To help streamline their introduction to the market and sustain the airline through COVID, Lift focussed its initial attentions solely on the Cape Town to Johannesburg route, which is the busiest in the country.
Flexibility was another characteristic that helped Lift get underway exceptionally fast. They approached Global Aviation, who was also grounded at the time, and managed to secure favourable leases on Airbus A320 aircraft that worked perfectly for their business model.
Apart from getting itself launched rapidly, Lift also managed to stay on time 90% of the time since its inception. A remarkable feat in the light of ongoing disruptions.
Another way Lift maximised the problems of navigating the airline industry during COVID was with their supremely flexible cancellation policy. Plus, by entering the market when they did, they managed to keep their operating costs as low as possible.
Instead of making money off ancillary services like food and baggage charges , Lift offers a slightly higher, all-inclusive ticket price. The convenience of a single good-value price helps eliminate some of the stresses of travel for Lift passengers.
The airline also offers some fun onboard entertainment for passengers like silent discos and bingo and bases many of its services on customer feedback surveys.
From this solid base, Lift plans to continue its growth one stop at a time, with plans underway for regional flights into Africa within the next few years.
The reality is that the South African domestic flight market remains desperately short of seats. So, if you’re planning a holiday or business trip soon, you should still focus on booking as early as possible to avoid disappointment.