Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine consumer perceptions of airline quality indicators and compare them to actual data reported by the Department of Transportation, in the USA and the Association of European Airlines (AEA) in the EU. The objective is to determine whether there is a discrepancy between reported performance metrics of service quality and consumer perception. Design/methodology/approach – This paper compares actual reported data on service quality with results of an exploratory questionnaire on the perceived frequency of service failures in three key areas of airline service quality; on time flight arrivals, baggage reports and flight cancellations. Similarities and differences both within and between the USA and EU markets are discussed. Findings – Preliminary findings indicate that actual consumer perceptions of airline performance on key areas of airline service quality are in fact far worse than the data reported in the US Air Travel Consumer Report or AEA Consumer Report. Consumer perceptions fail to come close to many of the service standards the industry is actually reaching. The only exception to this can be seen in the EU where the perceived and actual scores are virtually the same for on time arrivals. It's also interesting to note that the EU perception scores are generally higher than those of the US sample, indicating a marginally more positive disposition towards the industry. Originality/value – This paper represents a exploratory attempt to integrate the two dominant approaches to airline service quality –perceptual survey and reported secondary data – in an effort to understand the challenge facing international airlines. It also examines the perceptual and performance differences across key Western cultures.
Managing Service Quality – Emerald Publishing
Published: May 16, 2008
Keywords: Airlines; Consumer behaviour; United States of America; European Union; Customer services quality