Aviation

New South African airline launches, as country’s national carrier tanks

A new domestic airline has taken off in South Africa in the midst of a global crisis that brought the country’s national carrier to its knees.

Lift launched on Wednesday, and is the brainchild of former Uber Africa executive Jonathan Ayache and Gidon Novick, who ran kulala.com, according to Reuters.

In a statement on the airline’s website, Novick said that while many people think it would be crazy to launch an airline during a global pandemic, he and Ayache think it is “the best time ever”.

“The outdated supply-driven‚ high-debt airline model needs to change. Among many other things‚ COVID has proven that it’s simply not a sustainable approach,” Novick said.

“Instead‚ it’s time for a demand-driven business model. One that’s super-efficient‚ leverages off record low input costs and is both agile and flexible.”

He told Reuters that operating costs are as low as they’ve ever been.

“Oil prices are pretty low. Aircraft values have almost halved and people costs are also low, so we see a real opportunity,” Novick said.

The new airline will fly fourth-generation Airbus A320 aircraft which, according to its website, offers a more spacious domestic travel experience.

Meanwhile, South African Airlines (SAA) has been on the brink of collapse for a while now, with its woes beginning before the pandemic even started.

The flag carrier suffered huge financial losses in November last year after two of its largest unions began an eight-day strike, forcing the airline to cancel hundreds of flights.

A month later, the airline announced it would be placed into business rescue, a type of protection against bankruptcy.

In February, SAA announced restructuring plans it hoped would bring it back from the brink, with several Asia-Pacific routes cut, including its Guangzhou and Hong Kong services.

However, April saw the airline offer its entire workforce severance deals after its administrators concluded a successful turnaround is “now unlikely”.


Featured image source: Ian Landsberg/African News Agency (ANA)

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