Airline services marketing by domestic and foreign firms differences

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  1. ARTICLE IN PRESS Journal of Air Transport Management 9 (2003) 343–351Airline services marketing by domestic and foreign firms: differences from the customers’…
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  • 1. ARTICLE IN PRESS Journal of Air Transport Management 9 (2003) 343–351Airline services marketing by domestic and foreign firms: differences from the customers’ viewpoint Safak Aksoy*, Eda Atilgan, Serkan Akinci Department of Business Administration, Akdeniz University, Antalya, TurkeyAbstract Based on a survey of 1014 passengers of five European airlines, this paper reveals differences between passengers on the Turkishdomestic airline and those on four foreign airlines on the same flight destinations with respect to demographic profiles, behavioralcharacteristics, understanding of airline service dimensions, and satisfaction levels. Differences between the two passenger groupsare highlighted in terms of age, sex, education, occupation, sector affiliation, location of domicile, travel purpose, travel frequency,service expectations, and satisfaction levels. It is concluded that the differences in consumer profiles and expectations are valuableclues for domestic and foreign airline firms in understanding their consumers and in designing their marketing strategies.r 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.Keywords: Customer expectations; Services marketing; Domestic vs. Foreign1. Introduction evidence has indicated that success in customer-focused service development requires a deep understanding of Understanding, creating, communicating, and deli- customer needs, expectations, and preferences (Gustaff-vering customer value and satisfaction are at the very son et al., 1999) and that marketing strategies imple-heart of modern marketing practice. The customer, mented by airlines to expand internationally must takerather than marketing, is at the center of modern into account the different expectations and perceptionsbusiness philosophy, and customer service satisfaction is of passengers (Sultan and Simpson, 2000).the primary aim. In service industries such as the airline Demographic characteristics also play a critical role inindustry, the distinctive features of services require that shaping customers’ needs. Marketers take demographicmanagers understand customer needs and expectations, characteristics as one of the major determinants ofand keep promises (Zeithaml and Bitner, 2000). How- consumers’ buying behavior and service expectations.ever, most companies do not recognize the importanceof this approach until driven to it by circumstances(Kotler, 2000). 2. Research design and methodology The terrorists’ attacks on New York of 11 September2001 put immense pressure on airlines in an already The focal points of study are consumer profiles,tough market environment (Air Transport Association, consumer expectations, and consumer satisfaction with2003). Operational efficiency (Smit, 1997) and good the objectives of:marketing through an understanding of consumers(Driver, 1999) had already been identified as key factors * noting and comparing the demographic and beha-in the survival and competitive success of air carriers, vioral profiles of customers who prefer a domesticand the events of 11 September 2001 have emphasized airline and those who prefer foreign airlines;the importance of these factors. * understanding consumers’ expectations of airline Passengers’ expectations are among the factors services and to relate this to their preferences forinfluencing the service decisions of airlines. Empirical foreign or domestic airlines; * identifying the fundamental service dimensions for *Corresponding author. consumers who prefer foreign airlines and those who E-mail address: safak@akdeniz.edu.tr (S. Aksoy). prefer a domestic airline; and0969-6997/03/$ - see front matter r 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.doi:10.1016/S0969-6997(03)00034-6
  • 2. ARTICLE IN PRESS344 S. Aksoy et al. / Journal of Air Transport Management 9 (2003) 343–351* comparing the average satisfaction levels of passen- Table 1 gers flying with foreign airlines and those flying with Selected flight destinations and airlines a domestic airline, and to discriminate among the Route Foreign airlines Domestic airline identified service dimensions with respect to their Istanbul–London British Airways Turkish Airlines usefulness in predicting the satisfaction levels for each Istanbul–Frankfurt Lufthansa Turkish Airlines group. Istanbul–Amsterdam KLM Turkish Airlines Istanbul–Paris Air France Turkish Airlines The international terminal of the Istanbul AtaturkAirport was chosen as the main data-collection point.The airport is located at the crossroads of Europe and Table 2Asia and served more than 10 million passengers in 2001 Number of respondents by flight destinations and airlines(Tepe-Akfen-Vie Co., 2000). The domestic airline Foreign airlines n Domestic airline nstudied was Turkish Airlines while Air France, BritishAirways, Lufthansa, and KLM were the foreign carriers. British Airways 129 Turkish Airlines 173London, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, and Paris were selected Lufthansa 150 Turkish Airlines 156 KLM 65 Turkish Airlines 90as the target routes for both the foreign airlines and the Air France 125 Turkish Airlines 126domestic airline because travel to these destinationstakes approximately the same time—about 3 h from Total 469 545Istanbul—and, therefore, requires similar service levels.The target destinations and airlines were summarized in Grand total 1014Table 1. A self-completion questionnaire was designed tocollect information from the passengers of each airline domestic airline groups were then tested for eachon their demographic, attitudinal, and behavioral category. Significant differences (po0.05) are markedpatterns.1 The survey forms were prepared in English, with an asterisk.French, German, and Turkish to increase communica- The data suggest that passengers traveling withtion, convenience, and the response rate. The forms foreign airlines were more likely to be male, older, andconsisted of three sections. The first aimed to capture to have higher educational levels, as compared withinformation on respondents’ frequency and patterns of passengers on the domestic airline. Foreign airlines wereair travel. The second consisted of 39 statements preferred by managers (28%), whereas self-employedcovering the service expectations and satisfaction of people (14.5%), workers (12.4%), and students (11.4%)airline passengers. The final section focused on passen- preferred the domestic airline. Passengers on foreigngers’ demographic profiles—age, sex, occupation, loca- airlines used air transport largely for business purposestion of domicile, and so on. (55.2%), whereas domestic airline travelers were more The questionnaires were handed to passengers waiting likely to use air transport for visits (24.9%) andat the boarding gates and business lounges of the education (11.3%). Travelers on foreign airlines traveledtargeted airlines and flights. Upon completion, the more frequently than those on domestic airlines.forms were collected in the same manner. Overall, a The data were further analyzed to explain the possibletotal of 1350 questionnaires was distributed and 1014 relationships between the demographic and behavioralusable responses were collected, producing a 75.1% characteristics in both groups. Chi-squared test resultsresponse rate (Table 2). showed significant relationships between these variables for both groups (Tables 4 and 5). Female passengers were generally younger (45.9% for foreign airlines and3. Findings 55.9% for domestic airline) and less-frequent flyers (21.7% and 11.7%, respectively) than male passengers.3.1. Customer profiles Females traveled largely for family, friend, or relative visits (61% and 30.3%, respectively). Respondents were classified according to their sex, Male flyers that preferred foreign airlines were largelyage, education, occupation, sector, location of domicile, traveling for business purposes (85%), although nottravel purpose, and travel frequency (Table 3). Differ- necessarily on business class, whereas only 43.9% ofences between the proportions of the foreign and male flyers who preferred the domestic airline were 1 traveling for business reasons. For data collection within the terminal, permissions were obtainedfrom the Istanbul Governorship, the Airport Police Authority, Tepe- To analyze the direction and strength of the relation-Akfen-Vie Co. (as the international terminal operator), and the ship between age and travel frequency, Kendall’s tau-crespective airlines. test was used. The low value (À0.146) for the test
  • 3. ARTICLE IN PRESS S. Aksoy et al. / Journal of Air Transport Management 9 (2003) 343–351 345Table 3Passenger profiles by foreign and domestic airlines (%) Foreign airlines Domestic airline Significance of the differenceSex Male 70.5 61.9 0.004Ã Female 29.5 38.1 0.000ÃAge o20 1.5 4.1 0.014Ã 20–30 28.5 35.0 0.031Ã 31–40 27.7 27.5 0.964 41–50 22.0 16.8 0.041Ã 51–60 15.0 10.9 0.059 >60 5.2 5.7 0.765Education Primary school 2.0 9.0 0.000Ã Secondary school 4.1 10.2 0.000Ã High school or equivalent 23.3 25.8 0.362 University 43.4 38.9 0.163 Masters 20.7 10.6 0.000Ã Doctorate and above 6.5 5.5 0.490Occupation Manager 28.0 14.1 0.000Ã Self employed/own business 9.8 14.5 0.023Ã Worker 6.9 12.4 0.004Ã Student 6.9 11.4 0.016Ã Engineer 8 6.7 0.418 Academic/teacher 4.8 5.9 0.441 Professional (doctor etc.) 7.4 5.1 0.144 Salesman 6.5 6.5 0.981 Other 21.7 23.4 0.423Sector Manufacturing 18.8 12.3 0.006Ã Health care 10.7 6.3 0.013Ã Education/research 7.0 8.7 0.337 Construction/building 5.3 8.7 0.037Ã Banking/finance/insurance 5.7 5.0 0.657 Information technology 6.3 5.6 0.649 Retailing 6.1 4.8 0.384 Public sector 3.5 5.2 0.187 Tourism 4.6 4.2 0.786 Mass media/press 2.6 2.4 0.839 Other 48.2 36.8 0.015ÃLocation of the domicile EU 56.5 73.3 0.000Ã Other European countries 4.0 0.6 0.001Ã USA 6.8 1.6 0.000Ã Japan 0.9 0.4 0.350 Asia 1.9 1.4 0.472 Turkey 24.4 19.3 0.057 Other 5.5 3.4 0.112Travel purpose Business 55.2 33.4 0.000Ã Visit 15.2 24.9 0.000Ã Vacation 18.8 21.2 0.350 Education 7.3 11.3 0.032Ã Other 3.5 9.3 0.000ÃTravel frequency Couple of times a month 21.1 8.0 0.000Ã Once a month 19.5 10.3 0.000Ã Once in three months 25.5 25.1 0.900 Once in six months 17.3 25.5 0.002Ã Once a year 12.0 21.4 0.000Ã Fewer than once a year 4.7 9.6 0.003ÃNote: Ãindicates a significant difference between the foreign and domestic group proportions at po0.05 levels.
  • 4. ARTICLE IN PRESS346 S. Aksoy et al. / Journal of Air Transport Management 9 (2003) 343–351Table 4 group, nine factors explained 60.9% of the totalSignificance of relationships between variables (foreign airlines) variance, whereas eight factors accounted for 59.1% of Age Sex Education Travel freq. total variance in domestic airline travelers. Tables 6 and 7 list the factors in the order in which they wereAge extracted from the data.Sex 0.000ÃEducation 0.089 0.833 The nine factors that emerged for foreign airlines wereTravel frequency 0.001Ã 0.000Ã 0.176 food and beverage services, personnel, cabin features,Travel purpose 0.000Ã 0.000Ã 0.000Ã 0.000Ã Internet services, in-flight activities, country of originNote: Ãindicates a significant dependence between the two variables at and promotion, punctuality, speed, and aircraft (Tablepo0:05 levels. 6). For domestic airlines, the eight factors were cabin and personnel, country of origin and promotion, food and beverage services, in-flight activities, InternetTable 5 services, punctuality and speed, free alcoholic drinks,Significance of relationships between variables (domestic airline) and price (Table 7). Age Sex Education Travel freq. Although there is some overlap in the results, differences between the expectations of the two groupsAgeSex 0.000Ã can be discerned. Expectations of foreign airlineEducation 0.000Ã 0.313 passengers, unlike those of domestic airline passengers,Travel frequency 0.193 0.010Ã 0.000Ã form several distinct service categories with littleTravel purpose 0.000Ã 0.000Ã 0.000Ã 0.000Ã confusion between various service attributes. ForNote: Ãindicates a significant dependence between the two variables at example, cabin features and personnel emerged aspo0.05 levels. different service categories for foreign airline passengers, whereas domestic airline passengers amalgamated these two dimensions into a single category. In fact, peoplestatistic indicated that the relationship between age and and physical environment are two different dimensionstravel frequency was negative and fairly weak. This in services marketing, and the former can directlycould be interpreted as indicating that increasing age influence customer satisfaction by performing the roleleads to a decrease in frequency of airline travel for both of marketers. Zeithaml and Bitner (2000) emphasizedforeign and domestic airline passengers. Frequent that frontline employees and those supporting themflyers—once or twice a month—were found to travel from behind the scenes represent the people element offor business purposes (84.7% of foreign airline passen- the services marketing mix and are critical to the successgers compared with 64.9% of domestic airline passen- of any service organization. Physical environment cangers). Whereas the majority of travelers for vacation be divided into ambient conditions, space/function,(54.1% compared with 50.5%, respectively) and educa- signs, signals, and artifacts. In the airline servicestion (69.7% compared with 63.8%, respectively) had industry, cabin features are the most critical elementsflown within the last 3 and 6 months. in the physical environment, involving such attributes as Passengers traveling for business reasons and having temperature, air quality, comfort of the seats, andat least a university degree (79.5% of foreign airline cleanliness.passengers and 79.1% of domestic airline passengers) The variety, quality, timeliness, and the amount of thedominated in the 31–40 and 41–50 age groups. In food served during the flight were an important servicecontrast, younger (under 30 years of age) and less- dimension for both foreign and domestic airlineeducated flyers (high school and below) tended to travel passengers.for vacations and visits. As a result of rapid developments in information technology and the consumers’ adoption of Internet3.2. Service expectations and underlying dimensions services, the web and e-commerce have revolutionized the way in which services are delivered to customers and To probe the service expectations of airline passen- have changed the traditional relationship betweengers, the respondents were asked to rate the importance customers and service providers. The benefits ofof 39 service attributes on a seven-point Likert scale electronic channels for services marketing are consistentranging from ‘not important at all’ (1) to ‘very delivery for standardized services, low cost, customerimportant’ (7). A separate factor analysis was applied convenience, wide distribution, customer choice, abilityto each group of passengers. The principal components to customize, and quick customer feedback. In themethod, using varimax rotation, reduced the 39 airline services industry, the use of the Internet by firmsvariables to nine factors for foreign airlines passengers to communicate information is related both to hardand to eight factors for the domestic passengers, with information—in the form of schedules and the avail-eigenvalues greater than 1.0. In the foreign airlines ability of fare information—and to softer general
  • 5. ARTICLE IN PRESS S. Aksoy et al. / Journal of Air Transport Management 9 (2003) 343–351 347Table 6Factors underlying service expectations of foreign airline passengersFactor Factor interpretation (% variance explained) Loading Service attributeF1 Food and beverage services 0.766 Amount of the food served during flight (9.69%) 0.676 Variety of food served during flight 0.653 Timeliness of food and drink service 0.625 Quality of food served 0.583 Free alcoholic drinksF2 Personnel 0.721 Cabin crew’s credibility (9.22%) 0.658 Physical appearance of cabin crew (tidiness etc.) 0.639 Close attention by cabin crew 0.610 Cabin crew’s ability to answer questions 0.475 Cabin crew’s ability to speak foreign languagesF3 Cabin features 0.694 Cabin temperature (8.63%) 0.690 Cabin ventilation 0.615 Comfort of the seats 0.601 Continuous innovation and improvements in services 0.572 Convenience in making reservation/booking 0.496 Cabin cleanliness 0.459 Attractive ticket faresF4 Internet services 0.798 Adequacy and amount of information on airline’s website (7.86%) 0.772 Ticket purchase opportunity via Internet 0.751 Availability of airline website on InternetF5 In-flight activities 0.689 Various music options during flight (6.88%) 0.635 Visual flight information in the cabin (speed, altitude etc.) 0.610 Films and broadcasts during flight 0.599 Telephone call option during flightF6 Country of origin and promotion 0.786 Country of origin of the airline (6.28%) 0.756 Being my national airline 0.505 Attractiveness of advertisements of the airlineF7 Punctuality 0.798 On-time luggage delivery on arrival (4.82%) 0.685 On-time departures and arrivalsF8 Speed 0.804 Direct service to destination (4.55%) 0.756 Frequent flights to destinationF9 Aircraft 0.822 New models of aircraft (2.95%)information about the service provider company supplies (Alamdari, 1999). Although the present(Driver, 1999). In the present study, Internet services research was conducted on short-haul flights, in-flightcovering such functions as ticket purchasing and entertainment activities emerged as a distinct serviceinformation search by customers were found to be an dimension for both foreign and domestic airlineimportant part of the whole service expectation package passengers, in particular, expectations of telephone callfor both groups of passengers. option, films and broadcasts, visual flight information, The use of sophisticated video and audio systems as and various music options.in-flight entertainment systems (IFEs) has become an National loyalty plays a key role in selecting an airlineimportant differentiating tool for airlines in the past (Bruning, 1997). Airlines differ in the way in which theydecade. There is a wide range of IFEs available, conduct their marketing communication and the extentparticularly on long-haul flights. These systems include to which they use advertising and other elements of thevideo-on-demand, air map display, exterior view cam- promotion mix. The factor analyses in the results of theeras, gambling, computer games, destination informa- present study have gathered such items as ‘being mytion, financial services, shopping catalogues, music national airline’, ‘country of origin of the airline’,channels, telephone, facsimile, and in-seat power ‘attractiveness of advertisements of the airline’, and
  • 6. ARTICLE IN PRESS348 S. Aksoy et al. / Journal of Air Transport Management 9 (2003) 343–351Table 7Factors underlying service expectations of domestic airline passengersFactor Factor interpretation (% variance explained) Loading Service attributeF1 Cabin features and personnel (30.67%) 0.779 Cabin ventilation 0.647 Cabin temperature 0.621 Convenience in making reservation/booking 0.616 Continuous innovation and improvements in services 0.544 Comfort of the seats 0.495 Cabin crew’s ability to answer questions 0.491 Keeping you informed about all types of flight information 0.485 Cabin cleanliness 0.482 Cabin crew’s credibilityF2 Country of origin and promotion (6.41%) 0.781 Being my national airline 0.751 Country of origin of the airline 0.532 Attractiveness of advertisements of the airline 0.522 Variety of duty free goods sold during flight 0.515 Special offers for frequent fliers (discounts, free ticket, etc.) 0.459 Visual attractiveness of the service material (ticket, etc.)F3 Food and beverage services (5.00%) 0.728 Variety of food served during flight 0.677 Quality of food served 0.656 Amount of food served during flight 0.653 Timeliness of food and drink serviceF4 In-flight activities (4.47%) 0.754 Films and broad
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