The airline product is a standardized product and positioning in today’s highly competitive and constantly changing environment is one of the most important elements in an airline’s marketing strategy. Airlines are constantly trying to apply and implement various marketing positioning strategies in order to achieve success and growth. The overall purpose of this study was to examine the positioning strategies of the four selected Middle Eastern airlines in the South African business and leisure travel environment, based on airline performance in terms of service quality attributes that are perceived as important by passengers. The results of the study will contribute towards the air transport literature by confirming the validity of grouping a large number of service quality attributes and adding value to the role players’ understanding of their particular airlines’ influence and importance of service quality for positioning. The study also addresses the need for reliable information on attributes of service quality that are perceived by South African business and leisure passenger as crucial factors impacting on the selection of their airline. A literature review as well as empirical research was conducted to achieve the purpose of this study: the former provided a demarcation of the broad concepts of service quality and positioning. These concepts were specifically linked to the airline industry, providing a clear indication of the positioning strategies used by the selected airlines as reflected through the media and the airlines’ websites. The literature review also helped to identify the service quality attributes that were important to passengers of different airlines. These attributes were used to determine the positioning of the selected airlines as perceived by their passengers. The positioning of airlines was graphically represented using 3D Centroid plots. The data was analyzed using factor analysis, analysis of variance and multivariate analysis of variance. Factor analysis was used to group identified attributes of service quality important to passengers of selected Middle Eastern airlines. Analysis of variance was used to test the relationships between variables, while multivariate analysis of variance was used to test the effect of variables on each other. Databases were not available for this study: therefore non-probability sampling methods, namely convenience and quota sampling, were used. A limitation of the study within which the data analysis occurred is that the data collected was not normally distributed. The data had to be transformed and then tested for normality. The transformed data was normally distributed . The results of the research suggest that passengers are mostly concerned with the responsiveness of the airline and reliability of service, followed by consistency in the quality of service, and are less concerned about the added efforts of the airline as its main positioning component. The findings suggest the direction to be taken for the purpose of service improvement. Airlines should focus more on security measures and well-trained employees, as this will give passengers more confidence. Being responsive and prompt and willing to help, with a courteous attitude, should be a priority objective for employees as part of the service culture. The findings also suggest that more resources should be invested in customization, such as loyalty and frequent flyer programmes. The recommendations of this study could be used to improve the current process of service delivery.
Dissertation (MCom(Tourism Management))--University of Pretoria, 2008.