South Africa – LIFT is one of South Africa’s newest domestic airlines competing to rule the skies. Coming at a time when other airlines have had difficulty, it has managed to create a name for itself and stand tall amongst the other well-known airlines.
LIFT Airlines is a joint venture between former Kulula.com CEO, Gidon Novick and former Uber executive, Jonathan Ayache. The new airline has had a successful launch managing to have their first aircraft take to the skies only 90 days after the company was established. The story of how the company came to be is one of taking chances. Ayache was happy to share how he and Novick seized the moment to create something magical.
“We launched in December 2020. It was the heart of the pandemic. For us it was a very exciting period. The industry had been rocked. Planes had been grounded. Airlines were in business rescue, and we saw a real opportunity to enter the market. You could get really fantastic deals on aircraft leases. There were very experienced people that were available and looking to get back into the job market. So, we brought those two things together and we were able to start LIFT with an exceptional group of people.”
LIFT is an airline for all
When the company was first envisioned and launched, its focus was being different. Being an airline that caters for all and putting the customers first, said Ayache. In this regard, LIFT has Caters for economy, premium and business class.
“There’s something for everyone. The key thing that we look to offer everyone though is complete flexibility. That’s something that I’ve always found strange as why are airlines so punitive when you need to change or cancel your flight. For us, regardless of what ticket you buy, when you buy, you can change or cancel free of charge without any penalties up to 24 hours before your flight.”
The instrumental people behind LIFT
Ayache credits LIFT’s success and its smooth start to its co-founder Novick as well as the aircraft leasing company Global Airways. Without these two, launching their first plane in 90 days would not have been possible.
“He [Novick] had the vision and and saw the opportunity to launch an airline in what seems like a very crazy time to do it and pull together the team that we’ve got today. Global Aviation who run and operate the LIFT brand are also key to the operation and another big reason why we were able to get it up and running in 90 days.
How the name came to be
A brand’s name needs to signify something, have a meaning behind it. Some believe the greater the meaning, the greater the company’s success. LIFT got its name in the most surprising and unique way, through a competition.
“It’s actually really difficult to find a great name. We tried in the beginning … Eventually we realised we weren’t creative enough and so we put it out to South Africans and said if you can come up with a name for the airline we will give you a year’s worth of travel for free. We got 25 000 name suggestions and it was eight people who actually suggested the name lift. We ended up splitting the prize across all eight but it was a name that just resonated with all of us. It captured what it was that we were trying to achieve and could just work in so many different ways … We love our name and we’re very appreciative to those eight people that helped us come up with it.”
What makes LIFT different from its competitors
Every brand/organisation needs something unique about it to stand out from its competitors. For LIFT, everything revolves around the customer. Ayache and Novick needed more than just “it’s the right time” to enter the market. They saw and recognised how customers were treated. Airlines trying to do everything they can to make money off of their customers. They sought to change that.
“What differentiates us is, philosophically, when we do something we think about how this is going to impact the customer. Is it going to make them more likely to come back, Is it going to make them more likely to feel like they’ve had a great experience with us? Flexibility is a key value proposition that embodies this philosophy. The other one is that you pay for nothing when you’re on board. Everything is complimentary … It’s that philosophy.”
Expanding the business locally and regionally
LIFT is ready to take to the skies and open up new routes for their customers. On 26 October they hope to launch their first flight between Johannesburg and Durban. This is one of two new routes they will launch to complete what is called the “Golden triangle”. Ayache is hoping to move regional by next year but believes the company will do it when the time is right and not just expand for the sake of expanding.
“We will look at the regional opportunities and I think in our approach what’s very important is we’re not going to grow for the sake of growth. It’s important that wherever we go, we believe that there’s a proper business case. It’s commercially viable because as we’ve seen this is a very difficult industry. Lots of things change that we’re not in control of. The fuel price, Covid and it’s important that we are growing in a responsible and sustainable way.”
LIFT is all about providing an economical, flexible and customer first approach of travelling. This is their philosophy. Ayache fully believes the airline can continue with this method and expand at the same time. For him, this has been sorely lacking in the airline industry. For now, it seems LIFT is living up to its philosophy and will continue to do so.