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Service Quality Perceptions of Domestic Airline Consumers in India: An Empirical Study* Bhagyalakshmi Venkatesh 1 & R. Nargundkar2

Abstract Pricing and service quality are the key variables that decide the brand equity of each player in the airline industry. Existing literature suggests that measurement and management of service quality is the key for survival of airline companies. This research paper examines the service quality delivered by four major airlines in India on the backdrop of stiff competition in the airline service sector. The process of traveling on a domestic airline was divided into pre-flight, in- flight and post-flight experiences. A survey was conducted to find out the perceived service quality of frequent fliers on each of the four airlines across a series of service performance variables. The airline brands were positioned in a perceptual space, where the perceived service attributes were also mapped. Clear differences emerged among the airlines, with two of them perceived as being similar to each other, and the other two differing in many respects.

1.

INTRODUCTION

India at present has twelve competing airlines in the domestic market as against a single government owned airline in 1991. According to McKinsey Quarterly (2005), the Indian aircraft market is the world’s second largest commercial aircraft market. On-time performance and service levels have risen dramatically and fares have dropped. Passenger traffic is * 1. 2.

expected to grow by 20 percent annually over the next five years. Only a small percentage of India’s population travels by air partly due to the high costs of domestic flying. According to the Center for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA) consultancy, new players will help domestic passenger numbers. The players in the current airline market include airlines like Air

Received April 12, 2006 Research Associate, Dept. of Management Studies, PESIT, 100 Ft Ring Road, Bangalore, e-mail: bhagi3@gmail.com Director-MBA Program, Dept. of Management Studies, PESIT, 100 Ft Ring Road,Bangalore, e-mail: rnargundkar@yahoo.com

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Vilakshan, XIMB Journal of Management

Deccan with low-cost, low-fare and no frills along with airlines like Kingfisher, which offers some frills, and premium airline like Jet Airways. Competition has brought in some price advantages to travelers and has converted many railway passengers to airline travelers. This article examines customer satisfaction among travelers of four major domestic airlines in India. Because of proliferated number of players in the airline industry, airlines may enjoy new business opportunities along with high competitive threats. The objective of this study is to understand the customer satisfaction levels of the four major airlines viz. Jet Airways, Indian Airlines, Air Deccan and Kingfisher. A comparison of customer satisfaction based on service quality was done among the four major airlines based on responses from frequent fliers across fourteen variables on a five point Likert scale. A flying experience was divided into three stages- namely, pre-flight, in-flight and post-flight experience. A questionnaire was designed in such a way that the same sets of variables were measured among the customers of the four airlines under study. Fliers who had flown any of the four airlines could answer the questions pertaining to those airlines. The objective of this study was to understand the satisfaction levels of the airline customers. The study measured the expected level of service quality using a Likert type scale. 2. LITERATURE REVIEW

measurement in the airline industry in the U.S.A. These studies were based on economic variables, and pre-deregulation, developed as service quality assessments from the perspective of the airline consumer. Kearney (1986) was the first one to conduct service quality assessments from the perspective of the airline consumer in his doctoral dissertation work, which examined service quality from...
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