Passenger service quality expectations as perceived by long haul airline managers in South Africa

Lambert, Adam
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The elements of the service quality mix are an important consideration for airlines in deciding on the level of service provision offered by their airline. This study aimed to determine passenger expectations of service quality as perceived by Airline Managers (AMs) working at long haul airlines operating in South Africa. The extent to which passenger expectations inform airline strategy was also examined. Gap one of the SERVQUAL model, the difference between mangers’ perceptions of customer expectations and customer expectations, was used to frame the research problem. Within this, the five dimensions (also considered antecedents of service quality) proposed by the SERVQUAL model were examined to determine the relative importance. A scarcity of data in the literature covering AMs’ perceptions of passenger expectations of service quality necessitated an exploratory approach. Ten AMs and eight travel industry managers (TIMs) were interviewed to gain their views on passenger expectations of service quality. A ‘ranking’ exercise was used to determine how the respondents would rank the five dimensions of the SERVQUAL model, from passengers’ point of view. A ‘rating’ exercise was used to explore the factors related to each dimension in more detail. AMs’ and TIMs’ perceptions were found to be similar, with both groups ranking reliability as the most important dimension to passengers, echoing results seen with passengers. Trust and safety emerged as important themes within the reliability dimension. The tangibles dimension was found to be the least important to passengers, yet was rated as the area that was considered the primary area of investment by airline respondents. Passenger expectations were found to inform airline strategies. In conclusion, AMs’ perceptions of the relative importance passengers place on the dimensions of service quality match those found in the literature. Their financial investment strategies, though, do not match the elements of the service quality mix found to be important to passengers.
MBA thesis - WBS
Passenger services, Service management, Airline companies