Palmair: One of the Top Four Airlines in the World

Air New Zealand, Jet Airways, Palmair, Singapore Airlines, Surveys

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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11 comments on “Palmair: One of the Top Four Airlines in the World

  1. “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.”

    So if you don’t get your seat assignment until you get to airport, how is she ensuring that each customer has their choice of a seat? Do they mean 1st choice, 3rd or 14th?

  2. So basically, the way to return to the era of good service is to get rid of our huge monolothic airlines, and have a dozen or so 1-plane airlines based at each major airport in the country. So, for example, the flight from LAX to IAD is the “Sunshine DC-LA Airline”, competing with “Uncle Joe’s Dulles Flying Tiger”. The planes themselves could all be leased from ILFC.

    I like it!

  3. Allen – I assume that you request the type of seat you want when you book, and then she figures it all out. You don’t get to find out where you are sitting until you get to the airport, but your seat as already been assigned thanks to Ms. Rossello’s kitchen table.

    “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.”

    Either that, or a lot of letter stuffing going on at Ms. Rossello’s kitchen table after she had finished with the seating plan.

    I just checked out their website, and was surprised to see that they run day trips to destinations Spain, Italy, Ukraine and the Czech republic. You leave at 7:30, have a guided tour around the place when you arrive, some free time to shop and eat, and a flight home that night. Kind of like a mileage run without any of the actual accruing of FF miles.

  4. It appears that there needs to be a reevaluation of the criteria for these types of surveys, so that they can actually have meaning!


  5. 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. And even then they’d complain about the noise. It’s also a demographic more likely to read “Which?” magazine (as they like to complain about things not being as good as they used to be) and more likely to write in votes (“the internet? Ooooo, it’s all trouble isn’t it? Just full of young people trying to get on Big Brother.”) so they must have been over-represented in this particular survey.

  6. As is the case with many of these survey companies (JD Powers being notorious among many), the survey game is a pay to play kind of environment. You “subscribe” to the results and there are typically multiple levels of “subscription” that enable you more metrics and analysis (in this case, on your “competitors” ).

    Sooooo, it is product placement all wrapped up with a fun title. You pay…they play…everyone has fun (except the lowest ranked airline(s) and I have never been part of a low ranking “survey” so am not sure what their satisfaction is other than to acquire competitive data. It is a dark underbelly that one should take with a grain of salt in almost all cases.

  7. Simon – Thanks for the insight. That makes a lot of sense.

    Billy – I generally agree with you on most surveys, but I can’t imagine Palmair paid anyone anything. This is a tiny airline with little to no resources, I would imagine.

  8. Hi Cranky Flier – I am Teresia Rossello, the one who does the seating plans for Palmair on my kitchen table! Out of 43 Short-haul airlines we are absolutely delighted to have been voted top by the readers of Which? In Feb 2008 Which? sent 200.000 postal questionnaires to its members asking them to rate their satisfaction with the airline they had used on their most recent flight. They received 30,059 responses allowing Which? to report of 71 different airlines. I would be happy to send you the ratings if you send me your address.
    What Palmair offers is good old fashioned service! I am their airport representative and once passengers have checked in (at Bournemouth airport) they come to me and I allocate their seats on the aircraft. I board the aircraft in row order, unlike the rush to board some “free seating” airlines, and I see the aircraft off.
    The seating plan is done the night before on my kitchen table (which is becoming quite famous!). I work from the passenger manifest and block off seats for families of 3, 4, 5, 6 etc. which means that whatever time they arrive at the airport, they will never be separated. I also reserve seats for wheelchair and disabled passengers, people who are nervous fliers, claustrophobic, very tall, etc. and try, if possible, to meet every request. I don’t preseat couples or singles, they choose their seats at the airport. We are a large number of pax who travel very regularly with us and I know their favourite seats!
    Hot food (at no extra charge) is served on board and our cabin crew are well known for their service and attention to detail. All our pax say the award is well deserved and we are thrilled and very proud.
    I would be delighted to send you Whispers, our In-flight magazine, which would give you a better idea of what Palmair is all about.
    Hope I haven’t bored you too much, only once I get started ……………..!
    regards, Teresia.

  9. Teresia – I really appreciate your comment. Thanks for checking in and giving us a little more info on Palmair. I have no doubt you deserve the award, but I’m just surprised that there would be so many people familiar with your service. While many of us would probably like to fly with you, most of us won’t have the opportunity to do so.

  10. Having read all the comments regarding Palmair, I felt honour bound to give my comments regarding Palmair, having flown with them to Tenerife.
    As you have commented on, we, as a couple, were asked where we would like to sit, having been checked in very quickly, and as commented on, there is much more leg room than on a standard flight, as you board the plane, there is background music playing, I know that that is neither here nor there, but it does provide a calming influence. The captain introduced himeself and his crew and air hostesses were introduced, I know all airlines do this, but if you read their magazine, it tells you a little about each employee of Palmair and it shows that all employees care about their job and their passengers and have worked for Palmair for a long time. Most of the air hostesses are not your usual “trolley dollies”, they are a more mature lady who certainly had time for each passenger on the flight we were on. Yes, there are fresh flowers in the toilets, which is a very nice personal touch, I know it doesn’t mean or do anything other than create a pleasant area. The hot meal was very good and presented nicely. I’m am early 50’s person, so not quite the “retired” group of people that have been quoted to have spent time and effort making Palmair the centre of their attention, but I feel that Palmair should not be knocked for being a very small airline with 2 planes in their fleet, but commended for their excellent service which they provide and should be patted on the back for that.

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