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Title: The role of safety perceptions for airline passenger loyalty and the influence of aviation expertise.
Authors: Valkenburcht, Robin
Issue Date: 26-Aug-2013
Publisher: Open Universiteit Nederland
Abstract: Rationally, there is no need to have a fear of flying. Aviation is one of the safest modes of transportation. However, many people feel uncomfortable prior to and during their flight, ranging from uneasiness to total panic. Taking this into account, it is interesting to understand to which extent passengers consider safety when they book their ticket. Or from an airline marketing perspective it could be beneficial to know whether safety plays a role in marketing and communication strategies in order to convince the potential customer to choose for the respective airline. This thesis tries to answer the question what the influence is of safety in the decision to select a certain airline and if it differs for regular passengers, compared to aviation experts. Data is collected by means of a questionnaire with a sample of 134 persons. In order to establish the effect of aviation expertise in the airline selection decision making process, the group consisted of both aviation experts and non-experts. The experts were (former) pilots and air traffic controllers. It may be assumed that because of their knowledge of the aviation system and their experience with safety related issues, they may make other choices than the regular public. It may be expected that if passengers perceive risk of flying significantly, that the safest airline is the most successful one. With the upcoming market of low cost carriers (LCC) this is proven to be not the case. Ticket prices have gone down to as far as zero, which may lead to a different balance towards safety than the full service carriers (FSC). In that case one may wonder why price is the most contributing factor when it comes to satisfaction and loyalty. Earlier research has been performed on the elements that affect service quality and how this affects satisfaction and passenger loyalty. From literature it is known that assurance, responsiveness, empathy, reliability, tangibles, market presence and fare level all play their role when it comes to satisfaction and loyalty. This research adds safety and the role of aviation expertise as elements to this process. It was found that for the regular passengers only tangibles appeared to play a significant positive role in their perception of safety and satisfaction. Market presence has a significant positive relation to safety perception, whereas fare level relates significantly positive to satisfaction. Finally, satisfaction appears to relate convincingly significant positive to loyalty. In other words, the most obvious conclusion may be that a cheap-ticket passenger is satisfied and that the satisfied passenger is willing to be loyal to the airline. So far, this conclusion may not be very surprising. Secondly, passengers appear to support the WYSIWYG principle. Whether that be a nicely painted aircraft or a correctly dressed flight attendant or even the number of commercials in the different media, it plays a positive role in the perceived safety. Surprisingly no relationship could be established between fare level and safety, whereas exactly the trade-off between the two is an actual discussion. For the aviation experts it was also found that there is no significant moderation between the constructs of service quality and safety. Also the relationship between the constructs of service quality and satisfaction is non-significant. The relationship between fare level and both independent variables is also not convincing; this is different for market presence, which relates positively to both. Thirdly however, there is a strong positive relation between satisfaction and loyalty. In other words, satisfied passengers return to the respective airline. That experts consider safety as an argument to select a specific airline, could not be established. For airline marketing strategies the outcome may be of relevance. The physical and frequent appearance of the airline brand increases passengers’ service perception and leads to satisfaction and loyalty. This may not be surprising as safety statistics are not very transparent for passengers and conclusions from them may be difficult to draw. However, it is surprising that for those who have access to safety data and are able to interpret them, the weight of safety does not significantly differ. Further research can be done as to why safety and loyalty are not significantly related and how passengers perceive the relation between fare level and safety.
Appears in Collections:MSc Management Science

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