Lift co-founder Gidon Novick gets candid about starting airline in lockdown
Clinton Moodley chats to the co-founder of new airline Lift, Gidon Novick.
He talks about starting the airline during the lockdown, what makes Lift different from what South Africans have seen before and the challenges.
You were the founder of Kulala and worked in the industry for many years. Around 10 years ago, you stepped away from the industry and now you are back with a new airline. Can you tell us about Lift?
When the opportunity for Lift came about, we wanted to offer something different, especially and airline that adapts with the current changes the industry is facing. The real work started in June. We accomplished a lot in a short time.
We are working with Global Aviation, which has an existing fleet of A320s and handles everything from maintenance, crew, training and infrastructure. We are ready to start this new journey next month.
You are offering a flexible booking option, can you tell us why?
Travellers are always shopping for a good flight deal. One of the things they look for in an air ticket is flexibility. They want to be able to either change or cancel their flights should circumstances change. So, instead of cutting the price, we are adding value to our guests. If travellers cancel, they will receive a credit to use on a future flight.
Starting an airline can bring about many challenges. What were the challenges you faced?
The challenges are almost endless, but thankfully we have a team that can deal with anything thrown at them. The Lift team comprises people who are industry insiders and those that bring a fresh perspective.
How many jobs will you create?
Lift will create a significant amount of job opportunities (he was unable to provide an exact figure). What I can say is that it will be a positive job creator for our country.
Wine tasting on board, how exciting!
Lift has partnered with the top wine-producing farms in the country to create a wine tasting experience on board. We want travellers to enjoy their time on board, and this is something that will surely be a hit for our passengers.
Can you compare the process of starting an airline in 2001 vs 2020?
One of the biggest changes is the technological element. Everything is advanced and offers more opportunities than we had 20 years ago.
The rise of social media and digital platforms is another factor that is so different from when I started an airline in 2001, everything happens in real-time and you can engage with your passengers more effectively. Previously, we only used traditional media to showcase our offerings.
What is a typical day for you?
I wake up at 5 am and spend the next hour doing some work. It is the perfect time to get work done as it is my "quiet thinking time."
I then take the dogs for a run on the mountain or in the forest, drop my children off at school before heading to the office. Days of the office consists of solving problems, coming up with new ideas and having fun with the team. In the evening, if the weather permits, I go for a swim in the ocean before an early dinner with my family.
I read and have a laugh with Stephen Colbert or Trevor Noah latest show before I retire for the evening.
What do you do in your spare time, when you are not operating an airline?
We also run an investment fund which invests in beautiful boutique hotels called Home Suite Hotels. I also chair an amazing non-profit called SA Harvest, which distributes food what would have gone to waste to beneficiary organisations.
The organisation aims to end hunger in SA and over 75,000 meals are being delivered countrywide each week.
What is your favourite local and international travel destinations?
I have to say my favourite place is my adopted home, Cape Town. We’ve been living here for 4 years and every day feels a bit like a holiday. It is the most magnificent city in the world.
What is the motto you live by?
Life is not just a problem to be solved but an adventure to be lived.