On cloud nine with the world's best


By TAN KAH PENG

GONE are the days when passengers had to put up with aircraft without heating in the winter or air-conditioning in the summer. 

This was only among one of the discomforts of flying Aeroflot during the Soviet Union days, not to mention lousy food, long delays and surly staff in starched uniforms. 

Today, Aeroflot is spending US$30mil learning how to smile, with a little help from a British branch consultant, but it won’t be easy remaking a new image. 

Perhaps Peter Bath, 76, can show the Russians a thing or two about marketing. After all, he is in the same business as Aeroflot, except he operates a two-plane airline. 

When it comes to pleasing air travellers, his Bournemouth-based Palmair has no competitor: more legroom in response to fears over deep vein thrombosis and great food. 

Before the plane takes off, Bath is on hand to wish the passengers a pleasant flight and a happy holiday and then kisses the stewardess goodbye. 

He has waved off some 17,000 flights, and getting up early in the mornings each week to greet departing passengers has become second nature to him. 

His personal touch extends to keeping passengers informed about delays, telling them on one occasion that with two hours on their hands, they could go home and mow the lawn. 

With such service, no wonder Palmair was voted the best airline by some 20,000 Consumers Association members, 85% of whom would recommend Palmair to friends. 

In 1997, Palmair was placed fifth in the table, rising to third best in 2001, behind Singapore Airlines and Emirates. 

This year, it overtook Singapore Airlines and Emirates, beat MAS into sixth place, and left BA, the self-styled world’s favourite, way down in 32nd.  

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