Palmair: One of the Top Four Airlines in the World

Regular readers of the blog know that I’m not a fan of all these “Best of” surveys. That’s why I haven’t written about JD Power’s boring surveys or anything else like that. But, when a survey has an interesting angle, it certainly catches my eye. This includes a recent British survey showing Palmair as one of the top four airlines in the world. Who?

This year’s Which? Awards (out of the UK) features “the best companies and individuals that seek to serve the interests of consumers.” 08_06_30 palmairIn the airline category, it’s not surprising to see Air New Zealand, Jet Airways, and Singapore Airlines (the eventual winner) make the list of finalists. But that fourth finalist? Palmair. They ended up tying with Air New Zealand for third place.

I must admit that I’ve never heard of these guys, so I thought I’d dig in a little more. The airline seems like an unlikely hero. Based in Bournemouth, on the Southern coast of England, Palmair has a single 737-200 chartered from European Air Charter. The airplane started life with Sabena nearly 35 years ago, but it’s still going strong.

The airline exists to appear solely as a way to funnel pasty white Brits down to warm and sunny places to try to get a little color. You can’t book online, and it’s recommended that you use a travel agent or call them directly. You get a hot meal, but you won’t get your seat assignment until you arrive at the airport. You can only bring 20 kilos of baggage with you as well. So what is so great about these guys?

There aren’t any reviews on SkyTrax to help us out, but there have been plenty of articles popping up since the airline made it on the list. One from the Telegraph shows that flying with a focus on personal service has really set them apart. Just a sampling of what they do well.

  • “Singapore Airlines has 100 planes including the A380 which is the largest plane in service, on-board massages and a choice of dvds. All we can offer is the choice of tea or coffee . . .”
  • Until 2006, [founder Peter] Bath made sure he was in the departure lounge for each flight to greet the passengers. He then stood on the Tarmac at Bournemouth Airport in Dorset where the airline is based and waved off every single flight.”
  • When Mr Bath passed away, long-standing airport representative Teresia Rossello took over the role. She also ensures each customer can have their choice of seat by drawing out a plan in her kitchen every night.
  • Stewardesses place fresh flowers on the plane, including the toilets, every day and the company has removed a row of seats to give customers more room.

Sounds nice, right? I’m sure it is, but it’s easy to do with only one airplane. Good luck finding anyone who can replicate this on a large scale. It really makes you wonder how this tiny airline made it on to such a big list. Apparently, there were 70,000 votes by the general public to pick the winner. Sounds like there was a heck of a write-in campaign on behalf of this airline. It seems that every person who has heard of the airline must have felt compelled to go and vote.

So this doesn’t really change my view of surveys. I don’t find this particularly useful at all, since I highly doubt I’ll ever be in Bournemouth, and if I am, I’m unlikely to be flying to a sun spot. This may be an excellent airline, but if it doesn’t fly anywhere you need to be, is it really helpful? In fact, I’d imagine most people would find this news completely worthless, but I imagine all of us would enjoy flying on an airline like this, if it existed in our own backyard.

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