The Financial Times in 2007 reported that the worlds largest airline – American Airlines, was losing as much as $5m per day and was threating collapse under a huge $20bn of debt. Such a shocking statistic highlights the need for the airline industry to review their operations. Such a relevant topic for research requires a full review of current literature in order to recognise the current trends and identify an area for in-depth study.
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The current economic turbulence has provided many challenges across every industry and especially within the price sensitive industries competition has become significantly fiercer as firms compete to win the loyalty of the consumer and attempt to retain them. In an attempt to attract customers to their brand, organisations, particularly in the retail, travel and hospitality industries have developed customer loyalty schemes. Consumers have certain expectations about the products or services they purchase and about the suppliers of those products. Blackwell et al (2006) identifies the satisfaction that consumers experience when their expectations are met or exceeded often results in loyalty to a product or supplier. Consistent over exceeding expectations can often be difficult to achieve, however, by ensuring that those expectations are always met a company can instil its brand loyalty onto the consumer which can be extremely difficult to change. However, Hill et al (2003), indicates that being a good supplier that merely satisfies its customers is no longer enough. Consumers today, in particular business customers are confident that they can decide themselves on the level of value received from an organisation, and whether or not they can receive better value elsewhere. Jones and Sasser (1995) found that customers who reported that they were very satisfied were six times more likely to repurchase products than those who said they were simply satisfied.
Within the highly competitive airline industry it is important that services stand out from the competition. In order to achieve this Nardiri et al. (2008) indicates that managers must understand their customers’ needs and then set out to meet (or exceed) these needs. If service quality is to be improved, it must be reliably assessed and measured.
The current economic crisis has saw some high profile businesses fall across all industries and the air-travel industry has been no exception. Dutch national carrier KLM, which prides itself as being the first scheduled airline operator in the world, in 2004, announced gigantic losses of over $473m, which in turn forced desperate survival talks with Air France yet another troubled national carrier. Although, KLM and Air France are not the only struggling airlines in the current recession, the Financial Times in July 2007 Singapore Airlines reported its first ever quarterly loss of $177m.
Daniel et al 2003, identifies numerous reasons for the poor economic performance of some of the worlds biggest, and once most profitable airlines. They state that; all of this red ink has proved devastating to the airlines and many in the USA have been calling out for government intervention.
Hayward 2004, suggests that a fallout in demand is one of the primary reasons for the problems within the airline industry. He states that the airline industry has been hit particularly hard by an unprecedented collapse in customer confidence, mainly due to War in Iraq, and continuing effects of the 2001 terrorist tragedies. Along with the continuing rising cost of oil prices and fuel, has lead to airlines reviewing their low-cost concepts. For many of the larger international, long haul carriers the introduction of fuel surcharges, in particular with long haul flights. British Airways and Virgin Atlantic use fuel surcharges as common practise on long haul flights much to the disagreement with the extra charge from the consumers.
Reichheld (2001), suggests that loyal customers are more profitable, because the costs of sales are amortised over a longer period, they increase their purchases and percentage of spend with you, cost less to administer, refer others, and are willing to pay a premium. Therefore is it little wonder that companies seek to retain as many loyal customers as possible.
Authors such as Hill et al (2003), Blackwell et al (2006), Smith and Wheeler (2002), have all identified that there is a significant relationship between customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. By offering the best value to the consumer and ensuring that they are satisfied organisations can be sure of retaining their loyalty. However, Blackwell et al (2006) indicate that although a satisfactory consumption experience does not guarantee loyalty, the likelihood that customers will remain loyal depends on their level of satisfaction. Fornell and Wernerfelt (1987) suggested that consumers holding negative evaluations of the product following consumption are unlikely to buy again; those holding positive evaluations are much more likely to repurchase the product. However, although a consumer may be satisfied today, due to the tempting incentives that other competitors may offer, customers can be convinced to swap brands.
One of the most wide-reaching changes impacting on the supply of tourist transport provision is the low-cost airline. The development of the low-cost carriers has not only provided increased competition to the traditional airlines but has also increased competition within other modes of transport such as trains, ferries and buses, they have also impacted upon the way that many airports deal with these carriers.
In 1991, before the emergence of the low-cost airline Elster and Roemer put forward the statement that; the airline business is a mass market with mostly standardised services. All customers used to be, and still mostly are, treated the same. Furthermore, there is little differentiation between airlines. (Elster and Roemer 1991)
However, Tiernan (2008) highlights that the removal of restrictions on fares, as well as legislative and regulatory changes to encourage new entrant low-cost carriers, has changed the competitive landscape. Ryanair and easyJet in the E.U. and JetBlue and Spirit in the U.S.A. highlight a new breed of carrier. (Tiernan et al 2008)
It is widely accepted that the success of the low-cost, no-frills airline concept within Europe and its emergence in the market in the United States that the “traditional” airlines were forced to change their strategies in order to remain competitive. A Mintel report investigating loyalty schemes in tourism reveal that; Aer Lingus (EI) quit the One World alliance in June 2006, having joined in 2000, the airline cited a dramatic change in its strategic direction, namely its move towards recreating itself as a low-cost point-to-point carrier. (Mintel 2006)
Gustafsson et al (1998), state that; many airline companies have lost track of the true needs of their passengers, and are trapped in out-dated views of what airline services are all about. They further go on to state that; the goal of service development is to attract and keep customers who are satisfied, loyal and speak well of the company, but perhaps most importantly to keep profitable customers. (Gustafsson 1998)
Francis et al (2004) predicted that low-cost airlines in Europe would increase their market share of short haul traffic from 6 per cent in 2004 to 25 – 33 per cent by 2010.
According to UBM Aviation (2011) the three main low-cost airlines, Ryanair, Flybe, and easyJet, all of which fly from airports across Northern Ireland, had a combined domestic market share in the UK of 55%, with Flybe taking 31% of the market share alone, beating British Airways, a traditional flag / national airline by 11%. Therefore, within the UK the predictions made by Francis (2004) were under estimated.
Below shows the breakdown of the UK and domestic market share in terms of seat capacity for top 5 airlines within the UK.
UK Domestic Weekly Seat Capacity
UK Domestic Destinations Operated
UK and Domestic Market Share (seat capacity)
(Source: Flightbase June 7 2010 – UBM Aviation)
The most widely accepted definition of customer loyalty comes from Jacoby and Kyner (1973), who describe loyalty as the biased (i.e. non-random), behavioural response (i.e. purchase), expressed over time, by some decision making unit, with respect to one or more alternative brands out of a set of such brands, and is a function of psychological (i.e. decision making, evaluation) processes.
However, Oliver (1999) disputes this definition, as he believes that loyalty is developed in a linear fashion, and places greater emphasis on situational influences. Oliver (1999) defines customer loyalty as; a deeply held commitment to rebuy or repatrionise a preferred product or service consistently in the future, causing repetitive same brand or same brand-set purchasing, despite situational influences and marketing efforts.
Dean (2007) defines customer loyalty as; the degree to which a customer recommends, and expresses a preference for future use of a particular company.
Gourdin and Kloppenborg (1991) indicate that; retaining passenger loyalty requires reducing or eliminating negative influences on service quality by ensuring customers high quality rate service. Additionally, Peppers, Rogers and Dorf (1999) suggest that companies must closely monitor customer characteristics to accurately target desirable customers, considering not merely demographics but also consumption behaviours, and preferences.
Taiwanese airlines through the use of data mining have successfully and effectively obtained loyal passenger decision information, including personal information, consumption behaviour, and perceived service quality in order to retain passenger loyalty. (Wong et al. 2006)
Yi (1990) defines customer satisfaction as; an emotional response to the experiences provided by, associated with particular products and services purchased, retail outlets, or even molar patterns of behaviour such as shopping and buyer behaviour, as well as the overall market place.
Service quality promotes customer satisfaction, stimulates intention to return, and encourages recommendations, (Nadiri & Hussain 2005), a point that Barsky and Labagh (1992) further develop by stating that; customer satisfaction increases profitability, market share, and return on investment.
Davidow (2003) and Ekiz & Arasli (2007) have highlighted that there is a strong relationship between the level of customer satisfaction and repeat business. The higher degree of customer satisfaction, the greater the likelihood of repurchase and spreading positive word of mouth communication. (Davidow (2003), Ekiz & Arasli (2007)). Blackwell (2006) identifies that the discussion of a consumption experience with other people is a common activity. Negative consumption experiences not only reduce the odds of repeat buying, but also lead to consumers saying unflattering things when discussing their experiences with others. Dissatisfied customers can sometimes go to great lengths to express their negative experiences with others, including complete strangers.
Holloway (2004) recognises that customer relationship management is already well established in the travel and tourism industries. He gives the example that regular customers of airlines are entitled to the award of frequent flyer benefits, which can include selective upgrading or the accumulation of free air miles according to the number of paid-for miles travelled.
The original concept of the frequent flyer programme can be traced back to 1979, when American Airlines advertising agency proposed that it offer its best customers a so-called special loyalty fare. However, this new concept was short lived as just six days later one of American Airlines major competitors, United Airlines launched its own frequent flyer programme. The idea of frequent flyer programmes was one of the airlines first attempts to take advantage of both economies of scale and scope. In the 1980’s the rules and regulations associated with the frequent flyer programmes where simple, a passenger would collect miles and redeem them either against a free flight or an upgrade to the next higher available class of service. Today however frequent flyer programmes are complex in design and many passengers report that they cannot use their miles to book the flight that they want. InsideFlyer suggests that; on average, airlines currently sell 80% of seats to paying passengers, which is 20 percentage points higher than the historic norm of 60%. (InsideFlyer – cited in Mintel Report 2006)
Holloway (2004) however, highlights that not all organisations may benefit from such customer relationship marketing (CRM), and there are many examples within the travel and tourism industry that can be identified that will deliberately avoid CRM within their marketing mix. Airline operators which market themselves strongly on price, such as Ryanair, easyJet, and Flybe could be wasting their time and effort on loyalty schemes. Holloway identifies that if; companies like Ryanair with its total focus on price, would have to compromise this approach if CRM were to be introduced. (Holloway 2004 pg. 115)
Such programs focused on loyalty and repeat business in a price competitive market like low cost airlines would most likely cause more damage to those organisations in terms of their pricing image than the amount of business that they could generate. The introduction of a loyalty scheme such as a frequent flyer program involves high initial investments to design, introduce and implement, however they also promise a high return if successful in the long run, therefore carriers such as Ryanair and easyJet would be forced to either cut additional costs elsewhere in an already low cost operation or most likely pass the additional costs onto the consumer. Nevertheless, not all low cost carriers have taken this stance, Flybe for example are able to offer their frequent flyers lounge access at certain airports and free priority boarding and check-in where available. The Flybe scheme is aimed mainly at those passengers that fly regularly for business with the airline, although it is available to all customers.
Morrison (2002) relates to a survey carried out in 1993 by Travel Weekly, of business travellers, that found approximately 78% of the respondents rated frequent flier programmes as either very important or somewhat important when making travel arrangements.
Robinson and Andersen (2004) suggests that the perception of the troubles in Northern Ireland through literature by such writers as Joseph O’Connor, Roddy Doyle, and Mary Beckett to name a few has assisted in the discolouration of external and tourist perceptions of Northern Ireland and contributes to the negative imagery that keeps tourist numbers low, when economically it would help if they were high.
Lennon and Titterington (1996) suggest that Northern Ireland as early as 1969 lost most if not all its attraction as a significant tourist destination as the troubles began. They also highlighted that there was a weakness of tourism in Northern Ireland prior to the 1994 cease fire, and predicted in 1996 that if the ceasefire held then Northern Ireland would experience significant increases in the tourism market, which would also be enhanced by the NITB (Northern Ireland Tourist Board), marketing efforts.
Wing indicated in the 1990’s that; a critical factor for the development of Northern Ireland tourism was the availability of convenient and price competitive access transport. He continues to highlight that with two main airports and good ferry linkages to the UK mainland through Belfast and Larne access to Northern Ireland has always been relatively easy, although quite expensive. (Cited in Lennon and Titterington 1996)
2004 saw a significant turnaround for Northern Ireland tourism, with the introduction of nine daily flights from Belfast International Airport, Aldergrove, by easyJet which allowed the number of tourists entering Northern Ireland to rise above the two million mark for the first time. Further development of Belfast International Airport saw the addition of two other major airlines, Aer Lingus and Continential airlines which now operates under the United Airlines name.
The capacity of Northern Ireland’s airports also plays a particularly important role in the number of airlines that choose to operate from the three main airports. Belfast city airport (George Best) has tight restrictions on the number of flights operated per year, along with operating times and runway restrictions due to the length. The row over expanding the airport has been dated back to 1999, and began by Belfast International Airport criticising the plans to develop the city airport at a cost of ?21m. In a high profile exit from the city airport Ryanair decided to close its hub there as a runway extension in October 2010 was further postponed due to further investigations and pending another report, mainly to address concerns with resident’s arguments against the increase in air traffic associated with the expansion of the airport. With the current runway length at Belfast city airport Ryanair aircraft, (Boeing 737-800), are restricted heavily due to safe take-off weights in relation to the length of the runway, as a result the airline was only able to operate short haul flights, mainly to the UK mainland. It would be unlikely for Ryanair to consider moving its hub to Belfast International Airport as two of its main competitors already operate from there, Aer Lingus and easyJet. Although, Ryanair took the decision to withdraw its operations from Belfast city airport, BMI (British Midlands International) saw the withdrawal as an opportunity and it resumed flights from Belfast city airport, and on April 13 2011 the airline announced seven new routes to begin operating from Belfast City airport in early 2012. However, BBC News reported that the Belfast City Airport Watch Steering Group, were angry at politicians claiming that they are allowing the airport to become an international airport.
The addition of BMI into the network of airlines operating from Northern Ireland is significant, as it and Continental Airlines (now United) are the only airlines within Northern Ireland that are members of the STAR Alliance. Described as the largest and most awarded airline alliance in the world, the STAR alliance is able to offer 16,500 daily flights around the world to 912 destinations in 160 countries. (Mintel 2006)
Belfast City Airport was also served a further blow in early April 2011 when easyJet announced that it planned to remove its twice daily flight to London Luton from Belfast City airport back to the International airport. EasyJet are quoted to have said that during the 15 month trial from the city airport it found that there were no tangible benefits for its passengers to fly from Belfast City Airport over the International airport. (source: www.easyjet.com [Accessed 04/04/2011])
Many airlines are in a race against time to turn things around. Rarely before have we borne witness to such a prolific strategic challenge with long term implications for us all. (Hayward 2003)
A successful review of the literature has identified major themes such as the importance of customer loyalty pre and post the introduction of low cost airlines. Frequent flier programmes have been identified as being important during and up to the period late 1970’s until circa 2004. Since then airlines have diversified to meet the growing trend of a more price sensitive customer. This is particularly relevant within mainland UK due to a broader range of customer choice, along with a greater availability of cheaper travel options.
Research was not available in terms of Northern Ireland, where there is less availablitly of choice for airline passengers. Therefore this research will attempt to fill this research gap by studying the relationship between consumer loyalty and the local airlines.
Qualitative research is used to explore the attitudes, behaviours and experiences of consumers mainly through the use of interviews or focus groups and is aimed at collecting as much in-depth opinionated information as possible from the participants. Dawson (2010, p.14) explains that, “as it is attitudes, behaviour and experiences which are important, fewer people take part in the research, but the contact with these people tends to last a lot longer.” Quantitative research on the other hand generates statistics through the use of large scale survey research, using methods such as questionnaires or structured interviews. Quantitative research reaches many more people, but the contact with those people is much quicker than it is in qualitative research. (Dawson 2010)
Walliman (2004) suggests that the use of quantitate research often involves collecting primary data in the form of survey research.
It is important to realise that within the great debate among academics about which is better, qualitative versus quantitative, that certain methodologies become popular depending on the situation they are to be applied to. Dawson (2010) highlights that all methodologies have their own specific strengths and weaknesses, and should be acknowledged and addressed by the researcher.
Within social research the use of interviews is a useful tool if the researcher wants to find out in-depth information from respondents. However, there are three different types of interviews which need to be considered in order to identify which one will best suit the situation being researched. A researcher will be required to identify if unstructured, semi-structured, or structured interviews are most suited.
Unstructured interviews are in depth and seek to achieve a holistic understanding of the interviewees’ situation and point of view. This type of interview relies on the participant guiding the direction of the conversation with little or no help from the researcher. Due to these limitations unstructured interviews can only be applied to qualitative research. In the investigation of establishing if the people of Northern Ireland are loyal to airlines, unstructured interviews would be useful in finding out specifically why people remain loyal, however due to time restraints and the difficulty of choosing suitable candidates this method will not be used.
In attempting to establish which method of interviews would be most suitable it would appear that semi-structured interviews may be most suitable. By using this method the researcher can find out specific information which can be compared and contrasted with information gathered in other interviews. Each interview will require the same questions to be asked and answered but remain flexible enough for participants to express their views. An interview schedule will be produced which will contain the list of questions to be asked, and will provide the framework for the guidance of each interview.
The researcher will aim to identify a mixture of suitable candidates from each of the bandwidths identified from the questionnaire, along with a mixture of genders as suitable interviewees. Therefore there will be six interviews in total with an aim of three males and three females, by ensuring a mixture of interviewees from each age band the research will then reflect a sound spread of demographical opinions. The interviews will be carried out in a private room within the University of Ulster Belfast library, and will last approximately between 45 minutes to 1 hour. Each interview will be recorded using a digital voice recorder, and then a transcript will be produced using the recordings and Microsoft Word.
The second form of collecting primary data will be through the use of questionnaires. The questionnaire will consist of a mixture of open and closed questions. Open ended questions will be used in the areas of the questionnaires where additional information is sought to be collected and where answers maybe difficult to predict.
Before distributing the questionnaire to the general public a pilot survey will be distributed in order to identify any problems with the wording of questions and to ensure that participants understand what is being asked of them. It will also be used to establish whether additional questions are required and to identify the nature of these.
Once the pilot study is completed the questionnaires will be distributed using two different mediums. It will be available online and also as paper form. As most older people, in particular those that fall within the older age bands are not familiar with the use of the internet printed copies of the questionnaire will be a better way to capture information from those groups. By distributing the questionnaire online this will allow it to be exposed to a larger number of people across Northern Ireland, the researcher plans to use Survey Monkey (www.surveymonkey.com) which is a free online survey and questionnaire tool. Once the questionnaire is available to be completed by participants the link will be advertised on social networking media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, potential respondents will also be emailed the link.
In order to process the data collected a mixture of the use of SPSS and NVivo will be used. Both programmes specialise in the analysis of data. NVivo allows the data to be easily transferred into other programmes such as Excel and Word which will be useful in the findings stage of the research. SPSS however will be used to input the main data collected, and will be used to establish cross tabulations of data.
A time frame of one month to collect the data required from the questionnaires and one month to conduct interviews will be set.
In order to meet the objectives of this study an analysis of potential methods was undertaken. Most research can draw on a mixed methods approach to gain enough information to make recommendations based on original objectives of the study. The aims of the chosen methods are that the objectives of the research are met and fulfil the necessary requirements to make sound recommendations that will be beneficial to the airline/travel industry.
Findings & Discussion:
Through the use of questionnaires distributed both online and as paper form constructed the collection of data to be analysed in this investigation. Table 1 shows that of the 134 respondents 57.5% (77) were female and 42.5% (57) were male.
Table 2 and Figure 1 shows the geographical spread of respondents across Northern Ireland, the majority of responses came from the eastern counties, were the biggest two airports in the region are located, not to mention Dublin International Airport which is also located on the east coast of Ireland, which may suggest that those people may have the ability to travel more due to easier access.
An initial examination of the data shows that Belfast International Airport is the most used by the respondents at 45.5%, closely followed by Dublin International Airport at 40.2%, given that these airports offer the highest number of choices for destinations along with connecting flights it was expected to find that they would be used the most. Only 13.4% of the respondents chose to use Belfast City Airport and 0.7% used City of Derry Airport, limitations on the number of airlines that operate from these airports may give an explanation to why so few use them. Restrictions for larger aircraft in Belfast City Airport, due to take-off weights limit the range that these aircraft can travel, which was why in December 2010 Ryanair decided to close its hub there. It is believed that the announcement of seven new routes to be offered by BMI will increase the volume of passenger traffic in the City Airport, therefore placing it on an almost equal footing with Belfast International Airport. The reason why BMI is able to offer routes to mainland Europe is that it plans to operate smaller Airbus A319 aircraft which have a lower take-off weight to range ratio than the likes of Ryanair’s Boeing 737-800 series aircraft. The data also shows that over half of the respondents (51.5%) travel to mainland Europe therefore automatically reducing the choice of using Belfast City Airport. An important factor to also be considered is that City of Derry airport actually has a longer runway than Belfast City airport, therefore making it suitable as a departure airport for mainland Europe destinations.
Looking further into the spread of the population against the airports used most the more southern counties such as Armagh and Fermanagh show that the majority of people use Dublin International Airport more than Belfast International or City. In Armagh 60.8% of respondents used Dublin International Airport while only 26% used Aldergrove. Strong infrastructure with the M1 running from Newry to Dublin, and the M3 and N3 running from Cavan to Dublin allow the population of Armagh, and Fermanagh easier access to Dublin than to Belfast.
For North Down, Antrim and Derry, along with parts of Tyrone, there is a significant network of “A” roads connecting into the route of the two main Belfast airports, however none as significant as the motorway system that connects Dublin International Airport.
The infrastructure connecting the southern counties of Northern Ireland with Belfast international airport for example is of a considerably reduced standard of that of the Republic of Ireland. To give an example to travel from Newry – which is one of Northern Irelands biggest towns to Belfast International Airport it is estimated to take 1 hour and 4 minutes to travel the 38.6mile journey, were as the 60.6mile journey from Newry to Dublin International airport is estimated to take only 57minutes. Therefore it would be expected that the easier access to Dublin would have an influence upon travellers in deciding which airport to travel from. (Source: Google Maps)
An analysis of the most preferred airline to be used shows that the majority of the population prefer to use low-cost airlines such as easyJet and Ryanair, which together made up 55.2% of all choices. With the current economic crisis it is to be expected that people are more price conscience regarding their decisions and buying power, therefore it was to be expected that the low-cost, price sensitive airlines would be most popular, that low-cost group makes up 64% of the preferred airline choice. Frances et al (2004) predicted that low-cost airlines in Europe would increase their market share of short haul traffic from 6 per cent in 2004 to between 25 – 33 per cent by 2010, a high figure of 64 per cent of respondents choosing to use low cost carriers such as Flybe, Ryanair, and easyJet would appear to show that those predictions were correct.
The majorty of the investigated population travel to mainland Europe (51.5%), followed by 37.3% travelling to the UK and Ireland. These destinations are served by the low cost carriers
Over 65% of the respondents felt that price was the most important factor when choosing an airline, with the next highest most important factor being customer service at 9%, such a large gap in the perceptions indicates that the people of Northern Ireland are extremely price conscious when choosing an airline to travel with. Aircraft type (41.8%) and frequent flier schemes (35.1%) were ranked the lowest of importance in influencing peoples decisions to choose an airline. Holloway (2004), gives a possible explination for the reasons why people are not particularly concerned with frequent flier programmes which can apply to Northern Ireland, he states that operators which market themselves strongly upon price would be wasting their time and effort on loyalty schemes as low-cost carriers would have to compromise their pricing approach to be able to finance customer relationship marketing.
A significant number of respondents (56.7%) stated that they believed having membership to an airlines frequent flyer programme would encourage them to be loyal to that airline brand. However, only 17.2% admitted having actual membership to frequent flyer programmes, the most popular programmes being Continental One Pass, Miles and More, and Aer Lingus Gold Circle. When the population was asked what they believed was the most important benefit of having membership to a frequent flyer scheme the majority of respondents stated that price and discounts were crucial, which brings into question peoples understanding of the programmes and the benefits they provide. Most programmes will offer upgrades, lounge access, status and even free flights when enough miles are spent against these, however, research has shown that the programmes do not offer discounts on fares.
In conclusion it would appear that the idea or concept of passenger loyalty within Northern Ireland is non-existent and that emphasis on price appears to outweigh any other part of an airlines operations. It is difficult in such a price orientated industry to remain so competitive and to be able to fight off rival airlines in a battle of who can provide the lowest fares but still remain profitable. Although there is a huge on-going debate as to whether or not an expansion of Belfast City Airport should go ahead so that it would have the capabilities of operating full service flights to mainland Europe, it has been identified that the City of Derry Airport is an untapped resource with the capability of serving as an international airport with fewer restrictions than that found at Belfast City Airport.
Within Northern Ireland there would appear to be little or no concept of loyalty within the airline industry. Those consumers that fly from Northern Ireland are more concerned with recieveing good deals and are currently very price conscious when it comes to the deciosn of which airline to choose for their travels. Therefore airlines should not waste their marketing efforts on frequent flier or loyalty schemes within Northern Ireland as there appears to be little understanding of what the benefits actually are. If airlines wish to engage with the Northern Irish public in terms of promoting loyalty then they should aim at the relationship between customer satisfaction and service provided. Many people claim that in the low-cost airline world that what you get is what you pay for, however, due to regulations under EU law all passengers regardless of the airline should receive the same levels of treatment, in particular when delays or cancellations occur.
As the debate continues regarding the runway extension in Belfast City Airport, it would appear that the City of Derry airport has somewhat slipped under the radar of potential carriers for Northern Ireland. With its current facilities, and recently extended safety zones at each end of the runway City of Derry Airport has the ability to operate to international mainland Europe destinations. Development of infrastructure to support an increased volume of passengers would allow City of Derry airport to be a viable alternative to either of Belfast two airports.
Currently within Northern Ireland there are only thirteen different carriers that operate from the three airports, which is significantly less than the thirty two airlines that operate within the Republic of Ireland (see Table 4). Therefore, it is important that the government realise that there is a need to continue to promote Northern Ireland as a tourist destination and in turn attempt to attract more airlines to the region.
The local government needs to also examine the current infrastructure near the main airports in the region and attempt to improve access which at present is not as
Government needs to look at a greater development of the Belfast area and attract more airlines, also intfrasturcture needs to be improved
Airlines don’t need to focus marketing activates in northern Ireland on FFP’s as people dpnt use them and are more concerned with price and reputation.
Most ppl think ffp’s are a good idea but there appears to be little understanding of the benefits.
If carrying out future research into the topic of loyalty within airlines in Northern Ireland the following points should be considered. The initial research did not give an accurate geographical spread of respondents over the six county area. Also due to the lack of research on this topic across the entire United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, it may be suggested that a larger scale piece of research be carried out.
The actual questionnaire used could be lengthened to include more open ended questions so that the repondents could give more qualitative information and provide the researcher with a better view point on peoples perciptions and possibly experiences that either promote loyalty within airlines or in fact discourage the repeated use of a brand. Nevertheless the use of the questionnaire was a useful learning tool in the construction of questionnaires to be used with the general public.
The use of the internet was a useful tool in exposing the questionnaire to an immediately large group of people, however, with the research carried out, and due to the parameters set out in the methodologies many of the respondents were instantly invalid due to the location of the willing respondent.
A greater time frame for conducting both questionnaires and interviews would also be helpful in understanding the actual indepth reasons as to why people are loyal or even why they are not loyal to airlines. Due to the time restraints in carrying out this research it was decided that there would not be enough time to carry out interviews or analyse the data collected using NVivo. The use of in depth interviews would allow the researcher to aquire better qualitative information.
Geographical spread of respondents
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