South African carrier LIFT has come under fire from social media users criticizing ‘wasteful water usage’ during a celebratory water cannon salute at Durban’s King Shaka International Airport on Wednesday.

Online reactions

The inaugural flight which landed at Durban earlier this week was greeted with a traditional water cannon salute to commemorate LIFT entering the second-busiest domestic route in the country: Johannesburg O R Tambo International Airport to Durban.

Despite the fanfare, the carrier received backlash from some social media users for the ‘tone-deaf’ post amid ongoing water access issues across the city.

“Meanwhile we all have water restrictions and no water,” wrote one follower.

“How is this even possible when neighbouring towns still don’t have water since the floods in April?” another responded to the thread.

Durban has experienced issues with its water supply after catastrophic floods in the region earlier this year damaged several water treatment plants across the city. While recommissioning and construction efforts are underway, work is not expected to be completed until December, leaving many residents with limited access to water.

LIFT swiftly responded to the concerns, assuring its TikTok followers that the spray was ‘non-drinkable, grey water’ to avoid wastage.

Sustainability driven decline

The water cannon salute derives from its historic usage within the naval and maritime industry before crossing over to aviation. Following a surge in popularity in the 1990s, water cannon salutes became a mainstay for celebrating the launch of new routes, inaugurating new aircraft, and honoring retiring crew members.

However, with the industry’s shift towards sustainability, some airlines have begun to move away from the practice. One pioneer of the change is Brazilian low-cost carrier GOL, which announced it would end its use of water cannon salutes back in March. GOL opted to develop a dedicated ‘Sustainable Baptism’ filter on Instagram, replicating the shower in-app for passengers looking to capture the moment.

“Despite the beautiful image generated by the baptism, which attracts curious people taking pictures of the moment, about 3 to 5 thousand liters of water are used per action,” the carrier wrote in a statement.

“Even though reused water is used, the action consumes a precious resource that can be saved. GOL, which seeks to be a reference in sustainable aviation in the country, decided to abolish the use of water in its celebrations, innovating with a virtual form of celebration, with the desire that water has more useful destinations.”

Onwards for LIFT

LIFT has seen widespread support following the launch of its Johannesburg to Durban service, with social media users congratulating the carrier and celebrating the increased competition between the two cities. LIFT is the fifth airline to cover the lucrative route, offering three daily flights onboard its Airbus A320 fleet.

“Even though we were in the middle of COVID, we knew that if any route was going to be able to sustain us through the different waves that we had, it was going to be this one,” LIFT Chief Executive Jon Ayache told Simple Flying earlier this month.

“It had a good mix of leisure and, even though there wasn’t a lot of business travel, it still had some of that on the route.”

So, what’s next for the up-and-coming airline? Back on TikTok, one user asked LIFT if it will be launching flights between Durban and Cape Town anytime soon. The airline cheekily responded with ‘🤭.’

What are your thoughts on airlines using water canons? Should the practice be discontinued? Let us know in the comments.

Sources: Independent Online (1) (2)


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