South Africa is getting a new airline – and the founder wants you to name it

Kulula-founder Gidon Novick will launch a new airline later in 2020 and has invited South Africans to name the new carrier.

The airline, which has drawn inspiration from Uber, is a partnership between Novick and Global Aviation, a leading operator of Airbus A320 aircraft. The airline’s first flight between Johannesburg and Cape Town, the 12th busiest route in the world, is planned for December 2020.

“The pandemic has created a unique opportunity to start an airline that is not only dramatically more efficient but also inventive and creative by tapping into the unique talent that our country offers,” said Novick.

He added founding team combines industry experience with fresh thinkers from the technology and hospitality sectors.

“Similar to the way Uber has transformed the point-to-point mobility, there is a huge opportunity for the airline industry to rethink its relationship with passengers and be more ‘customer obsessed’.

“This can be achieved by bringing together industry experts, technology and a fresh perspective and strategic approaches from other sectors.” says Jonathan Ayache, an ex-Uber Africa executive who is also involved in the project.

Like Uber 

Novick told MyBroadband that he is upbeat about the opportunity which the pandemic brings to re-look at traditional business models and find how things can be done differently.

He said the pandemic has created the prospect of affordably acquiring the key inputs to start an airline – aircraft, facilities, and skilled employees. A key focus for Novick is on efficiency and cutting costs, which include leasing aircraft at dramatically reduced rates.

He added that there are high-quality maintenance facilities available which are far cheaper than what they were a few months ago. Through experience he found that airlines get less efficient the larger they get, so starting off small gives a new airline a big advantage.

Another focus for Novick is flexibility. “With the market uncertainty, a flexible model which can adjust to market demand is critical,” he said.

He told MyBroadband technology will play a very important role to increase efficiency. “Technology has the ability to facilitate a seamless, efficient, and engaging relationship with our future customers,” Novick said.

The new airline will be fully funded through private capital with no debt. He said his business experience showed him the incredible damage debt can do to a business, especially in a volatile industry like air travel.

“Staying away from debt is absolutely key to the success of launching a new low-cost airline,” he said. To keep costs down they will launch with used aircraft which are either purchased outright or leased.

These will mainly be narrow-body, single-aisle aircraft with around 180 seats, like the Boeing 737 or Airbus A320. He explained local airfares are much lower than in many developed countries which require a local airline to adjust their business model. This includes using older aircraft.

Naming the new airline 

Novick has invited all South Africans ‘to put their creativity to the test’ and suggest a name for the new carrier.

Without being too prescriptive the new team are looking for a name that is unique, aspirational, and cool. Ideally it should be easy to say and memorable.

Entries can be posted on the website and the winner will be announced within the next two weeks. Novick said that the person who names the airline will win a year’s free travel pass.

Read: Government to help fund SAA rescue

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South Africa is getting a new airline – and the founder wants you to name it