Lithuania being one of the most cost-effective European places to run an aviation company, Small Planet Airlines Group is headquartered in Vilnius and has operating bases at various European airports, along with offices in Lithuania, Poland, Germany and Thailand.
The charter company’s fleet is optimized for the lowest cost and highest reliability, thus being able to live up to its claim of offering European-quality service at the best possible price. The customer service is second to none. The staff members, dressed in the same warm and cheerful colours that brighten up the aircraft inside and out, have been specially selected and trained to make sure everyone feels happy and comfortable on the flight. All in all, it is a refreshing experience to fly Small Planet.
“As a leisure company, our focus is on the passengers,” points out Jaroslaw Jeschke, CEO Poland and one of the group’s shareholders. “The purpose of a business like ours is to transport people from A to B. Most of our passengers are going on holiday, and our aim is to revitalize them, let them start their holiday when they board the plane.”
A track record of dependability makes Small Planet Airlines Group a prime partner to tour operators. The charter airline company that took up passenger flights in 2009 was previously registered as flyLAL Charters in 2007 and was renamed when operations started from various airports in Poland and Lithuania.
“The management soon recognized the benefits of the Airbus as a charter plane and implemented the first A320 in its 180 configuration,” says Mr. Jeschke. “We then became the first charter company to operate an Airbus family in the Polish market.”
Since those early days, Small Planet Airlines Group has expanded year by year and added more A320 and A321 Airbuses. Even if Poland has remained the group’s biggest entity and market at a rate of 51%, operations in other European countries and overseas are steadily gaining significance.
“The whole group owns 21 aircraft in all today, 17 of them A320 and four A321 Airbuses,” says Mr. Jeschke with justified pride. “We keep ten planes in Poland alone (nine live + one stand-by), three in Lithuania, one in the UK, two in Germany, two in France, one in Netherlands, one in Cyprus. One aircraft is set to operate in Cambodia under our new AOC.”
Since each market has its own rules, flexibility is an important aspect where Small Planet Airlines Group is concerned. Some of the key managers including Poland’s CEO had been able to gain experience in the tour operating business before they joined Small Planet, so their background facilitates communication and cooperation with clients.
“We are very flexible where the committed capacity is concerned,” confirms Mr. Jeschke. “Moreover, we are quick in taking decisions, reliable and always on time. Above all, however, we don’t say ‘No’ to our clients.”
Indeed, the company is prepared to adapt to clients’ specific needs and supports operations in Europe, MENA and Asia. “There may be a July-to-September deal and negotiations for the following winter with some operators,” explains Mr. Jeschke. “Some contracts only involve the summer, some clients want year-round contracts, and some even book for three years in advance.”
The highest frequencies are in summer, of course, with some aircraft in the air up to 500 hours per month, which is almost their limit. In order to adapt to clients’ widely varying expectations, Small Planet redirects part of its operations to the regions that have inverse seasonality to Europe.
Moving the fleet between the continents adds to the group’s flexibility and success. “We are about to take up activities for example in Cambodia and Thailand for the winter time,” says Mr. Jeschke. “Our goal is to use four to five aircraft in Asia, others in the Middle East, about five in Europe and the remainder for random use and maintenance.”
Small Planet is always ready to help out and provide business partners with short-term solutions, for example in case of fleet availability shortages. Its aircraft wet lease service comes complete with tailored onboard services and the possibility of custom livery.
Prestigious airlines such as Thomas Cook, TUI, Atlas Atlantique, Sky Angkor and Bhutan Airlines appreciate these benefits along with localized implementation based on EU Air Operator’s Certificates and the use of aircraft equipped for comfortable journeys.
Small Planet offers Airbus 320 and 321 configurations of 180 and 220 seats, respectively, all completely overhauled in 2016 and fitted with stylish and comfortable Recaro seats, modern LED lighting and wireless AirFi network.
Well represented in the Small Planet fleet, the A320 continues to set industry standards for comfort and operational economy on short to medium-haul routes. Its advanced technology includes the extensive use of weight-saving composites, low maintenance costs and Airbus’s characteristic fly-by-wire flight controls.
Its rightsized fuselage is 20 cm wider than its competitors’, which enhances passenger comfort considerably. The A321 is the largest single-aisle member of Airbus Family. Small Planet Airlines decided to include four A321 Airbuses in its fleet because of the superior comfort they provide on longer routes – even the transatlantic ones.
The state-of-the-art cabin design features a markedly wider aisle for faster boarding and easier cabin movement as well as a hybrid layout. Moreover, unique Airbus technologies enable the A321 to offer the lowest fuel burn, harmful emissions and noise footprint in its class.
Superior performance and flexibility are not all Small Planet has to offer, however. Europe’s largest tour operators also welcome the group’s holiday destinations program featuring onboard services tailored to special service requirements. Matching passengers’ holiday mood, Small Planet provides everything from the original online check-in to onboard entertainment and quality in-flight meals right through to passionate customer service and full attention to passengers’ needs.
With 600 employees at peak periods and 200 people engaged in administration alone, a record turnover in excess of the 182 million EUR registered in 2015 and Air Operator’s Certificates in Lithuania, Poland, Germany and Thailand, Small Planet Airlines Group has everything it takes to continue its rapid rise to the top.
According to Mr. Jeschke, the group’s international management team share this view and contribute their different competencies and experience to the same end. “Within the next ten years, we aim to become a billion EUR company,” he says. “We share our responsibilities and duties, one of us specializing in commercial activities, another one in operational duties, someone else in finance or maintenance. Between us, we form a unique team that is like a big family providing both freedom and support.”
Poland’s dedicated CEO himself welcomes the special duties that are linked with his position. “Every day you face new situations and scenarios,” he says. “I love to meet and master the challenge.”
Largely committed to tour operators, Small Planet Airlines Group is open to different options and possibilities, true to its original “Why not?” philosophy. Conferences organized on behalf of clients, press meetings and the participation in events arranged for travel agencies by tour operators contribute to the airline’s growing popularity.
Since recently, it has started selling some of its seats in a B2C model in the Polish market. Also in 2016, cooperation agreements in the UK have resulted in mixed, committed and B2C operations. Small Planet Airlines is well on its way to realizing its ambitious goals: The sky is the only limit for this dynamic business helping to make Earth a smaller planet.