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Title: The role of in-flight meal on satisfaction and loyalty : a study of Arabian Gulf full service carriers
Author: Al Balushi, Houda J. G.
ISNI:       0000 0004 8503 1761
Awarding Body: University of Surrey
Current Institution: University of Surrey
Date of Award: 2019
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Background: Air travel's growth has generated fierce competition between airline companies, with different marketing strategies evolving. However, as airlines attempt to emulate each other worldwide, the marginal benefits of marketing strategies shrink, and airlines are forced to compete over products and services offered to passengers. One of these competing services is the in-flight meal. Therefore, a holistic understanding of the impact of in-flight meal attributes on satisfaction and loyalty in general, and in comparison to other service-quality dimensions, must be understood. Purpose: The aim of this study is to critically evaluate the relationship between in-flight meal satisfaction, overall flight satisfaction, and loyalty among long-haul business and economy passengers of Arabian Gulf full-service carriers. Methods: A sequential exploratory mixed-method approach was conducted. Purposive, snowball, and convenience sampling were used to collect data from passengers with experiences of flying long-haul with Emirates or Oman Air and travelled in economy or business class in the last 12 months. The study yielded 261 online reviews, 24 semi-structured interviews, and 419 questionnaires. Qualitative data were analyzed using content and template analyses with the aid of Nvivo 12. Conceptual model was developed and empirically tested using Partial Least Structural Equation Modeling (PLS-SEM) guided by SPSS and SmartPLS 3.2, to provide a comprehensive understanding of the factors that affect passengers' in-flight meal satisfaction, overall fling satisfaction and loyalty. Findings: In-flight meal satisfaction was found to significantly contribute to the prediction of passengers' flight satisfaction and loyalty, especially meal taste, preferences, and service. The strength and significance of this prediction varied according to flight details and passengers' travel habits and individual characteristics; such as the airline company, seat class, route, trip purpose, flight duration, flying experience in general and with the airline, travel party, and passengers' socio-demographics. Contribution: The study offers a detailed investigation, in relation to data enquiry and analysis. It is one of the very few mixed-methods studies in the field, achieving both within-methods and between-methods triangulation. It is the first study to attempt to use airline platforms to understand passenger behaviour, specifically in relation to food, and in so doing represents an important contribution. It uses a novel combination of statistical measurement techniques to simultaneously validate and assess a set of factors of different natures and integrates models from two separate disciplines; i.e. service quality and food-related behaviour. Unlike previous studies that concentrate on one travel stage alone, this study incorporates factors from both the pre- and in-flight stages. Conclusion: This study thus advances current service quality and in-flight meal models, contributing relevant practical knowledge, to not only aviation, but also to the overall service marketing and management sectors at large.
Supervisor: Eves, Anita ; Hares, Andrew Sponsor: Sultanate of Oman
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral