A novel configuration of a three-phase internal loop airlift reactor is proposed. The draft is divided in two sections: (top) gas–liquid contact section; (bottom) liquid–solid contact section. Solids particles are fluidized in the bottom section by liquid circulation. The main advantage compared with classic airlift or three-phase fluidized bed is the reduced stress on particles as interference with bubbles is prevented. Experiments with silica sand (325 µm diameter) were carried out to characterise the hydrodynamics of the airlift. The influence of superficial gas velocity, overall solids hold-up and sparger height were assessed. A theoretical analysis was proposed to derive simple design criteria.