A couple months ago, I wrote about the Which? magazine survey that ranked single-airplane Palmair one of the top airlines in the world. While the survey results aren’t exactly helpful for 99% of the people in the world (and therefore not a great survey), the more I’ve learned about Palmair since then, I’d say it’s hard to disagree that these guys do a great job.
It was with great surprise that I received a comment on the blog from Teresia Rossello, the woman who lays out Palmair’s seating plan on her kitchen table every night. She kindly offered to send me a copy of the Which? magazine with the survey results in it as well as a copy of the Palmair inflight magazine. When it arrived, I couldn’t put it down.
If you didn’t read the previous article, Palmair is based in Bournemouth on the Southern coast of England. Palmair is primarily a tour company that happens to run an airline to transport the ghostly white Brits down to warm sun destinations. You can see all the cities to which they fly on the Palmair website or at left. (They also have a bunch of cool looking day trips scattered throughout the year.)
The airline itself is set up in a very unique way, and it’s exactly how I would set up an airline if I started from scratch today. The aircraft, a 737-200, is operated by European Aviation. As far as I can tell, the plane is a dedicated Palmair aircraft, but it is operated by European Aviation pilots. In the inflight magazine (which is good for the summer season), there are pictures and biographies of all the pilots. Some of these guys have some pretty cool experience. For example:
[Captain] Haydn [Crenshaw] started flying with BEA initially on Vanguards progressing through the BAC 1-11 Boeing 737 fleets and ultimately flying Boeing 777’s for British Airways. Together with his wife Marcia, and five children, his adventurous family have skied in the USA, walked in the Grand Canyon and been diving in the Gulf of Thailand.
It’s a different story with the flight attendant, er, stewardesses. Yup, they insist on calling them stewardesses, and while they may employ men from time to time, they don’t have any this year. And yes, they are employed by Palmair unlike the pilots. I’ve always thought that employing the customer-facing employees directly and outsourcing the rest would be the ideal way to set up an airline.
Interviews are actually held at the house of the founders. Peter Bath is now deceased, but his wife Elizabeth still holds court. The stewardesses really are a blast from the past. How about this biography on Holly Jenkins:
Bournemouth born and bred, Holly studied A Levels in Art, Textiles and English Literature at St Peter’s Sixth Form before going on to Bournemouth Arts Institute. She enjoys dressmaking, painting flowers and making home made cards. Holly loves the beach, especially Mudeford.
Ok, so they aren’t all like that, but they all do have pretty interesting and strong backgrounds. Reading through the magazine, and having emailed with Teresia, you really do get the feeling that this is an airline with a lot of happy people working for it.
So I look at this airline and I see a very small company that’s dedicated to extremely personal service during all aspects of the trip. You can’t even book online because they want to speak to you in person. One of my readers, Simon, commented on the last post that
Bournemouth and the area around it is full of retired people – the sort of people who have time to write to these surveys and also “can’t be doing with that British Airways” largely because they would only be happy if BA made Bournemouth their hub.
If that’s the case, then Palmair is doing everything right in targeting those elderly travelers. Travel among retirees is a booming business, and they tend to want and need extra care in their travels. If I lived in this area, I would certainly pay more to travel with Palmair knowing that I’d be taken care of every step of the way.
Palmair appears to know its target market well, and while it’ll never be a huge airline, it can do a great job of serving its small target market. Now, I haven’t seen any financial information, but I’ll assume that since this is primarily packaged with tours, they can run a profitable venture. I just wish I had the chance to try them out for myself.