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TBT (Throwback Thursday) in Aviation History: Palmair
Today, the town of Bournemouth, on the south coast of the UK is known for the Little Premier League team of AFC Bournemouth and for their miles of beaches. However, five years ago the town was home to an airline that had been rated third for best short-haul airline in the world. The airline was a small operation but was very popular with tourists in the area.
The airline was called Palmair, named after the airline’s first destination as a charter carrier in 1958. The airline would charter aircraft for Bath Travel and increase the number of flights and destinations year after year. In 1993, the airline started its own services, named Palmair Flightline. Flights were operated by Flightline with a single BAe 146. The airline offered both scheduled and charter services to holiday destinations around Europe. The services proved popular with the locals in Bournemouth and in 2003 the carrier carried 75,000 passengers. The same year, the UK magazine Holiday Which found that in a survey of 20,000 UK travellers, Palmair was the top rated airline from the UK.
In 2004, the airline served scheduled flights to 10 cities in Europe and offered day trips to 25 other European cities. At this time capacity had been increased, with flights being operated by fellow Bournemouth based airline European Aviation, using a Boeing 737-200. In 2006, fortunes for the small airline began to change. At the end of the year, the company’s founder Peter Bath, who had personally seen off every Palmair flight to that point, passed away. Two years later, European Aviation went out of business, meaning that Palmair’s only aircraft had become grounded. However earlier that year, Palmair was named the third best airline out of 70 world airlines, based on a reader survey.
With the demise of European Aviation, Palmair leased a Boeing 737-300 for the Winter 2008 season. In May they switched to a Boeing 737-500 operated by Astraeus. The deal with Astraeus was originally suppose to run until 2012, however the deal was cut short in 2010 for unknown reasons. For the Winter 2010 season, Thompson operated aircraft for the airline, with destinations being cut back to just two. The airline continued until April 2011 when the decision was made to shut down.
Although Palmair had been incredibly popular with people in southwest England, the increase of competition at Bournemouth Airport and the rising costs of fuel at the time of closure, meant that Palmair could no longer be viably operated. Although management for the airline have said the airline is in a deep freeze until the economy improves no updates have been made since the airline closed in 2011, leaving the future very much in doubt.
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