Business Class South Africa
(Image supplied by LIFT)
  • LIFT, the South African airline that isn't even a year old, has launched its premium offering.
  • This version of business class allows passengers to travel with more luggage and enjoy a blocked off middle seat.
  • But competition in the domestic market is fierce, as airline's attempt to shake off the pandemic blues and strengthen their positions ahead of the national carrier's return.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

South Africa's newest airline, LIFT, is the latest to introduce a premium section – its versions of a business class – on board its flights between Johannesburg and Cape Town.

LIFT, which made its inaugural flight less than ten months ago, has been weathering the pandemic-induced turbulence. The airline grounded its planes throughout July due to lockdown restrictions limiting travel in and out of Gauteng.

Prior to July's suspension, LIFT had already transported more than 150,000 passengers with a 97% on-time performance rate and became the first domestic airline to introduce pet-friendly flights.

Now, a month after resuming its schedule between Johannesburg's OR Tambo and Cape Town International, the airline has launched its premium service to compete with business class perks offered by its competitors.

The launch follows in the wake of FlySafair's upgraded business class offering – which now automatically comes with an empty middle seat – and ahead of South African Airways' (SAA) long-awaited return.

Discounted flights offered by Kulula, which only resumed operations on Wednesday following a three-month grounding, and FlySafair have further exemplified the state of competition within South Africa's airline sector.

Here's how the perks and fares of domestic airlines' premium or business class offerings compare.

Business Class South Africa
Fare comparison: Cheapest one-way flight offered between 13 and 20 October 2021, from Johannesburg to Cape Town. Prices gathered from airlines’ online booking platform, correct at the time of publishing (2 September 2021)

LIFT

The latest airline to introduce a premium offering, LIFT describes the addition as "ideal for business travellers and frequent flyers alike." The first three rows of LIFT's Airbus A320 aircraft have been reconfigured to accommodate this new premium section, which offers more space – described by the airline as "market-leading legroom" – and extra baggage.

The middle seat is automatically blocked off and converted into an additional tray table, with premium flyers getting to choose a reclining aisle or window seat.

A premium ticket also allows passengers to carry two pieces of 7kg hand baggage, two checked-in 23kg bags, and additional room for "special" baggage, like sporting equipment.

A dedicated check-in area at the gate, lounge access, and priority boarding are all included in LIFT's premium offering. Passengers also get unlimited changes to their flights with no penalty fees. Onboard refreshments and a voucher for Vida – which operates the on-board catering – are also included.

Bookings for LIFT premium are open, but flights with the service will only operate from 11 October.

FlySafair

FlySafair recently replaced its premium offering with a business class, the main difference being that the latter now includes a blocked-off middle seat in the price. Beyond this, the seating arrangement remains the same, with leg room increased only by booking a pre-selected emergency exit row seat.

The biggest advantage of FlySafair's business class offering is its additional baggage allowances. Business class passengers can take 7kg bag on-board as hand luggage, with two 23kg bags checked in. "Special equipment" up to 32kg is also included.  

Unlimited fee-free flight changes, priority boarding, and a pre-reserved seat are also part of FlySafair's business class.

Kulula

Kulula offers three different fare options – Fly Light, Pack & Go, and Fully Loaded – leaving the business class category to its Comair partner, British Airways. The Fully Loaded offering is the closest comparable business class fare offered by Kulula, and, as the name suggests, focuses exclusively on accommodating extra baggage.

While passengers will still be seated in economy class – with no blocked off middle seat and no added legroom beyond the emergency exit row – fully loaded tickets allow two pieces of checked in baggage weighing up to 20kg and one carry-on bag up to 7kg.

Priority boarding and unlimited flight changes are included.

British Airways

British Airways, operated domestically by Comair, offers a business class package which includes seating in the slightly more spacious Club Cabin.

Passengers are still restricted to just one carry on bag weighing up to 7kg, but can check in two bags weighing up to 32kg. Priority boarding and access to the dedicated business lounge are included. Free unlimited flight changes are also offered, but this is included in an economy ticket, too, so is no great advantage for British Airways' business class.

South African Airways

SAA is due for lift off on 23 September and has already started taking bookings, despite an unfinished sale agreement which remains critical to the embattled national carrier's return. A leaner SAA – operating flights to just seven destinations, one domestically between Johannesburg and Cape Town – offers two business class fares, with the premium offering scrapping the refund fee.

Judging from SAA's business class offering prior to its grounding in March 2020, passengers on domestic flights can expect extra legroom with leg rests and multiple charging points for laptops and cell phones.

Priority boarding and check-in is included, with lounge access at the airport. Passengers will be allowed to board with two pieces of hand luggage not exceeding 8kg each and check in two pieces of luggage exceeding 32kg per piece.

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