Lift Airlines (GE, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) will resume all flights on its only route - between Johannesburg O.R. Tambo and Cape Town - on Sunday, August 1, 2021, after Pretoria eased COVID-19 leisure travel restrictions to/from Gauteng Province following declining infections.

The start-up, owned by Global Aviation Operations (GE, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo), had temporarily downed all flights on July 5 due to plummeting demand as South Africa grappled to contain a third wave of the COVID-19 Delta variant, which particularly affected Gauteng, the most populated province that includes Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria. The South African government on June 28 had announced a 14-day lockdown, which was extended to July 25.

Travel demand was further affected by riots and widespread looting in Johannesburg and KwaZulu Natal (KZN) following the July 9 incarceration of former President Jacob Zuma on contempt of court charges. The former head-of-state had refused to testify at the country's Zondo Commission of Inquiry into state capture during his 10-year tenure which ended in 2017.

Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Ayache said: “It's been a challenging few weeks for South Africa, but with the clean-up underway, travel restrictions being relaxed, and progress with the vaccination rollout, we’re optimistic that demand for travel will return.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa on July 25 announced the easing of COVID-19 travel restrictions and also the acceleration of the country’s COVID-10 vaccination programme with 18 to 35-year-olds from September 1 joining older age groups already qualifying for the life-saving jabs.

Lift’s move was met by Airlink (South Africa) (4Z, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) implementing a 25% drop in fares booked on July 27 and July 28, while no-frills carrier FlySafair (FA, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) responded by announcing a new twice-weekly service between Bloemfontein and Cape Town from July 30, 2021. Together with CemAir (5Z, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo), the two airlines had continued flying during the extended lockdown and together had mounted a humanitarian effort ferrying food and essential supplies to affected areas in KZN following the riots, labelled an unsuccessful insurrection attempt by agents provocateurs loyal to the disgraced former president.

Meanwhile, Comair (South Africa), which operates budget carrier Kulula Air and the local franchise for British Airways (BA, London Heathrow), on social media, confirmed it would only resume operations on September 1, 2021, as initially announced. The airline, still in bankruptcy protection, is currently seeking additional financial support from its new investors, the Comair Rescue Consortium. It had suspended operations on July 13 due to a lack of demand.