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Airport Cities Quality in European Excellence Model Thesis

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Updated: Jan 10th, 2021

Executive Summary

Because airport cities are an emerging phenomenon, research surrounding them is scarce. The majority of authors who examined airport cities in their studies focus on their development, significance for urban development, and position as future employment hubs. When approached from the quality management point of view, airport cities are not evaluated as a whole; rather, they are discussed as separate but communicating units. The purpose of this study is to understand whether the EFQM model can be used as a suitable framework to create pillars for measuring the quality of airport cities. Content analysis was used to evaluate how airport cities are perceived in research, what measurement of their quality is used, and whether any additional frameworks are proposed to assess them as whole units. The findings indicate that no common framework exists for the measurement of the quality of airport cities; at best, their districts (cargo, logistics, hospitality, retail, etc.) are evaluated with no consideration of other parts. The EFQM model is suggested as a suitable framework due to the transparency, effectiveness, and reliability it offers.


The emergence of airport cities, their history, and their development are presented in this section. The author discusses the uniqueness of the airport cities as a phenomenon and utilizes current research to present the concept in detail.

Literature Review

The author uses current research literature about airport cities, their development, and the use of the EFQM in various projects (governmental, urban, etc.). The section aims to present the EFQM model, discuss the research dedicated to it, compare the discussions of different authors about EFQM and airport cities, and demonstrate the suitability of the EFQM model to the evaluation of airport cities.

Research Gaps

In this section, the aim of the study is presented through the identified research gaps. The identified gaps are to serve as the basis for the problem definition and research questions.

Problem Definition and Description of the Approach

The purpose of the study and research questions and objectives are presented in this section. Based on the presented research questions and objectives, the author formulates the research hypothesis. The deductive approach is utilized as the main approach to the research questions and hypothesis, and its discussion is based on the example (content analysis).

Research Design

The research design is presented in this section. The author uses a qualitative approach that relies on secondary data analysis to answer research questions and demonstrates the advantages and disadvantages of the chosen method and design.

Data Collection and Analysis

The author discusses the tools and devices used for data collection. Google Scholar, Science Direct, ProQuest, and the University of Wollongong library are utilized to gather secondary data. Journal articles, books, newspaper articles, website entries, and editorials are presented as main sources for data collection. The process of the research analysis, divided into two parts (the analysis of two different samples of articles dedicated either to airport cities or EFQM) is also presented in the section.

Results and Major Findings

The results of the conducted content analysis indicate that the use of the EFQM model is not considered in the research and management of airport cities; instead, other frameworks that are only partly aligned with the EFQM model are used by airport cities’ managers to assess them. The results are presented in two tables based on the content analysis of selected articles. Specific attention is paid to the overarching theme and the sub-theme identified in the articles.


The author discusses the lack of consistency in the evaluation of airport cities’ quality, pointing out that the EFQM model is not simply omitted in the research but is not even proposed as a suitable framework for creating pillars of measurement of airport cities’ quality. The detailed list of reasons why the EFQM model might be highly suitable as a tool for evaluation is also presented in this section.

Conclusions and Managerial Recommendations

The main advantages of the EFQM are discussed in this section. The author emphasizes the suitability of the EFQM model but also indicates that it can be difficult to implement due to its complexity. The list of managerial recommendations addresses such factors as the company’s preparedness, leadership, personnel’s qualifications, etc.

Limitations and Future Research

The limitations of this study are demonstrated by the author: the qualitative method used in the research, research bias, small scope of recourses (e.g., the number of articles), and the applicability of findings to large airport cities only.


The study’s contributions to research are described in this section. It identified and addressed the gaps is research pertaining the lack of a unified approach toward the measurement of airport cities’ quality, provided a suitable framework for such measurement, examined how the quality of airport cities is addressed in research, indicated why the EFQM model is the most suitable framework for creating pillars of measuring airport cities’ quality and presented managerial recommendations on how the EFQM model should be implemented.


Airport cities are relatively new phenomena that are currently emerging in various urban centers near airline hubs. Due to their novelty, no framework exists to assess their quality and impact on the business excellence of an organization. Current research addresses airport cities as a unique phenomenon with no regard to the assessment of their effectiveness, and the research about the application of existing frameworks to airport cities is scarce. Additionally, airport cities in the UK and UAE are rarely addressed in current research.

Several reasons may explain why airport cities emerge in different countries and metropolitan areas. First, their emergence is related to the declining costs of air travel; some areas, such as Las Vegas or Miami, would not exist without mass air travel (Appold & Kasarda 2013). Air transport has not only helped expand market areas of many businesses but has also transformed the movement of goods and products in both national and global supply and various distribution channels. As Appold and Kasarda (2013) report, air transport is used for the transportation of goods with the following characteristics: “they have a high value-to-weight ratio; they are highly perishable; and they are time-critical components of complex supply or distribution chains” (Appold & Kasarda 2013, p. 1241). As many airports are either airline hubs, facilities related to popular traveling destinations, or important international cargo gateways, they tend to influence available positions and employment rates in surrounding (metropolitan) areas. It should be noted that between30 000 and55 000 or more people may be employed in the largest airports, and a third of those employees are not related to aeronautical functions (e.g., they work in retail, hospitality, etc.).

Literature Review

The search for suitable sources for the literature review was conducted using Google Scholar; the keywords “airport cities”, “airport cities quality”, “EFQM”, and “airport city” were used. Studies older than five years were excluded from the search, as were studies that focused on topics not directly related to the assessment of airport cities’ quality (e.g., airport branding, transportation services, and social media, etc.).

Appold and Kasarda (2013) provide extensive research on the development of airport cities as the new downtowns and emphasize their impact on the metropolitan area. Airports are rearranging space and becoming the city. The hypothesis discussed by the authors indicates that “businesses dependent upon air transport may increasingly prefer locations near air interchanges” (Appold & Kasarda 2015, p. 1255). A second hypothesis proposed by the authors suggests that airport cities are becoming work and entertainment zones, which directly impacts the effectiveness of business related to tourism and air services. Saldıraner (2014) discusses requirements necessary for the establishment of an efficient airport city: common planning approach, sufficient area for the airport and airport city, the availability of business and finance, convention, logistics, shopping centers, hotels, and recreation and accommodation areas, and multimodal transportation modes.

Rizzo (2014) also points out the importance of available transportation that will connect town centers with the airport city by orbital transit corridors. Nikolaeva (2012) argues that the unique nature of an airport city (in this case, Schipol airport) is in its ability to provide a 24/7 available public space that does not aim to be a substitute for a city center but redefines the definition of “fitness” per se. However, the quality assessment of airport cities is lacking. The majority of research focuses on it as a new phenomenon with no regard to its impact on business effectiveness and excellence. Sections of the airport city are evaluated separately and not as a whole. The EFQM model’s “key implementation factors cover people, processes, structures, and resources that the organization can use to manage quality” (Suárez, Roldán & Calvo-Mora 2014, p. 866). It is suggested that the EFQM could be effective in measuring the processes that exist in airport cities such as leadership, human resources, strategies, products, and services, etc. to assess their current level of excellence and set further goals.

The EFQM model is a framework currently used in various businesses and organizations; it is a holistic structure for self-assessment, as Al Dhaheri and Bilal (2013) define it. The authors point out that the model assesses the organization through the following criteria: people, policy, leadership, strategy, partnerships and resources, people results, processes, customer results, society results, and key performance results (Al Dhaheri & Bilal 2013). The model puts a particular emphasis on the cause and effect relationship of the processes conducted in an organization; those criteria focused on causes are named “enablers”, while criteria that target effects are called “results”. One of the advantages of the EFQM is its applicability and generalizability; it can be used in different countries and organizations to evaluate their quality without being adjusted to regional or local specifics.

Sampaio, Saraiva, and Monteiro (2012) stress other factors that must be considered when using the EFQM as an assessment tool. First, it helps stakeholders detect improvement opportunities and view the strengths of the organization. Second, it also provides stakeholders with the time necessary for the identification of gaps between desired (best practice) and actual performance. This way, the organization can create a consistent basis that will help it assess the progress of achieving clear targets and objectives set by the company management (Sampaio, Saraiva & Monteiro 2012). EFQM facilitates forecasting and planning.

The EFQM is a suitable framework for evaluating the quality of airport cities as it is generalizable and can be applied to any organization depending on its specific aims and objectives in the industry. However, it is not the only existing framework that is used to evaluate company performance and quality. For example, the ISO 9000 Family of the Standards is a framework that was designed to support companies in managing, controlling, and improving the quality. It also focuses on customers, leadership responsibility, employee and stakeholder involvement, system approach to management, etc. Nevertheless, Daneshjo, Stratyinski, and Jergová (2014) explain why the EFQM is more efficient than the ISO 9000. First, each criterion of the EFQM has a level of importance (e.g., 10%, 15%, etc.). Second, customer results are especially relevant, having approximately 20% level of impact. Third, continuous improvement is a key aspect that is not given sufficient consideration in ISO 9000. Although the ISO 9000 can be used as a framework for measuring the quality of airport cities, it provides less detail and attention to core criteria such as people, strategy, customer results, key performance results, etc. Such limitations can have an adverse influence on the overall assessment of airport cities, thus resulting in decreased performance, customer and stakeholder satisfaction, and a decline in organizational business excellence.

A more practical approach toward the implementation of the EFQM is used by Al-Khouri (2012) who uses the example of the United Arab Emirates to show how the integration of the EFQM and Information Technologies can change the practice of an organization or a government. The UAE created the eGovernment Strategic Framework 2012-2014 based on the EFQM model to improve the delivery of services, citizens’ quality of life, and the effectiveness of governmental processes (Al-Khouri 2012). As many airports are government-owned, the case study of the UAE is a good example of how the EFQM is integrated into organizational processes in governmental facilities. In this case, the framework helped departments improve their public-sector performance, increase participation of citizens in government decisions/actions, improve the accountability of civil servants, and assure a competitive environment for private businesses (Al-Khouri 2012). Additionally, the implementation of IT and the EFQM model helped ensure cost-cutting as some administrative burdens were removed and responsiveness to customers increased significantly.

The advantage of self-assessment is that it helps organizations understand what employees and other stakeholders think about the need of change, find out whether the company’s business is as effective as anticipated, evaluate various opinions and their practicality, and create a better understanding of change and quality management. With the lack of a framework for the assessment of the airport city quality, self-assessment based on the EFQM appears to be both attractive and efficient as the perception of airport cities as divided units should be transformed into a more holistic understanding. The current prevalent view of airport cities as clusters (Terekhov & Gollnick 2015) of different divisions and parts is unacceptable for the following reasons: all districts (logistics, hospitality, cargo, etc.) are parts of a bigger environment (airport), assessing them individually will not indicate interdivisional problems that impact the quality of the city (e.g., the time of service processing at logistics facility and its impact on the distribution and delivery centers), and the impact of the quality of these cities on operating businesses will also be difficult to measure, as individual assessments of facilities will omit problems at the airport-wide levels.

As can be seen, current literature research on airport cities and EFQM has not been connected; the majority of the works dedicated to the EFQM either evaluate it using a case study of a specific company or discuss its theoretical implications on business in general. The studies of airport cities examine those through an economic, urbanistic, public sector management, environmental, or another prism, paying little to no attention to quality management. Furthermore, no framework for the assessment of their quality is proposed in current studies. Thus, the author identified a significant gap in current research on quality management and airport cities, as no suggestions are made about the assessment of the airport cities, and the EFQM model is not suggested as one of the possible tools.

Research Gaps

The study aims to address the following research gaps:

  1. The lack of a unified approach to the measurement of the quality of airport cities.
  2. The perception of airport cities as divided facilities and districts rather than whole units.
  3. The lack of research examining airport cities through the prism of quality management.

The study aims to utilize secondary data analysis to fill the gaps in research and answer research questions.

Problem Definition

The expansion of commercial aviation locally and globally has led not only to the need for the development of the airport’s infrastructure but also highly increased competitiveness in the aviation industry. The workforce needed for the maintenance of such facilities can include thousands of people, which eventually results in the emergence of airport cities that include a variety of districts (aviation, logistics, education, residential, etc.). However, no standard framework exists to evaluate the quality of airport cities and their influence on business excellence and effectiveness. Therefore, it is impossible to assess the effectiveness of such airport cities without a standardized quality model. The EFQM Excellence Model is a framework that allows analyzing a company’s performance in various areas and whether this performance is improving. It can be viewed as a suitable framework for the assessment of the airport cities’ quality.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study is to analyze the EFQM Excellence Model as a potentially suitable framework for the assessment of the quality of airport cities. As no assessment standards of such cities currently exist, the study aims to examine the phenomenon of airport cities and suggest the EFQM as a potentially effective framework for the measurement of airport cities’ quality as a unit and not as a set of divided districts.

Research Questions and Research Objectives

The research questions are as follows:

  1. How can the EFQM Excellence Model be integrated into the assessment of airport cities’ quality?
  2. Is the EFQM Excellence Model a framework suitable for assessing airport cities as a unit and not a set of districts?
  3. Can pillars of measuring the quality of airport cities be created based on the EFQM?

Research objectives are as follows:

  1. Examine the phenomenon of airport cities and critically assess current research on the subject.
  2. Evaluate whether the EFQM is a suitable model for the assessment of airport cities’ quality.
  3. Analyze how the EFQM can be applied to assess airport cities.

The hypothesis of the study is:

H1. The EFQM can become the basis for developing standardized pillars for airport cities’ quality measurement.

Description of the Approach

The research approach in this study is deductive. The deductive approach is based on a series of steps: first, the researcher examines the existing theory, then formulates a hypothesis based on the literature review, thereupon conducting an observation, a test, or an analysis to support/refute the hypothesis, and finally describing the results (confirmation or rejection of the hypothesis). The key feature of the deductive approach is that “the researcher imposes their structure on the data and then uses this to analyze [data or materials]” (Kemparaj & Chavan 2013, p. 96). One of the examples of a deductive approach is content analysis. Using content analysis, the researcher searches for patterns and repeated themes in the obtained data, thus indicating how the problem is perceived in research and among quality managers. The helpfulness of content analysis is in its focus on existing data from various sources; this approach helps the researcher ensure the avoidance of repetitions and restatements of findings already present in the research.

Research Design

The research design is a qualitative study that will rely on secondary data analysis to answer research questions. It should be noted that the distinction between “primary” and “secondary” data analysis is crucial in this case. Whereas primary data analysis refers to analyses of data collected by researchers to answer research questions, all other types of analyses can be labeled as secondary data analysis. Such analyses usually include data collected for other specific research studies or different types of data (e.g., previously published interviews, statistics, surveys, online articles, blog entries, etc.) (Cheng & Phillips 2014). The researcher’s goal is to utilize existing research data from journal articles, books, available surveys, and published interviews to evaluate how the EFQM is used for businesses quality assessment, how airport cities’ quality is assessed by quality managers, and whether any standards can be developed based on the EFQM. The advantage of secondary data analysis is that it “avoids repetition of research & wastage of resources by a detailed exploration of existing research data” (Tripathy 2013, p. 1478).

One of the main advantages of secondary data analysis is its low cost. Additionally, data available online is usually proofread and checked by the authors of the research or their reviewer, which decreases the chance of obtaining false, untested, or unreliable data. It should be also noted that the real-life testing of the study’s hypothesis would require significant financial investments, not to mention the consent of an airport city to participate in the research that requires the involvement of all districts and divisions, which can be problematic both for the research timing and the processes at an airport city. Thus, an analysis of available secondary data is suitable. The research design has several limitations. First, it cannot provide any unique materials or data obtained directly from the source of investigation (for example, via questionnaires and interviews). Second, it is less generalizable as it relies on data collected in specific regions (e.g., countries and cities where airport cities are functioning currently). Its results might be inapplicable to airport cities that will emerge in several years due to the continually changing business environment and the updating process of the EFQM. Third, the researcher that analyzed the data was not present during data collection and might not be aware of research specifics or glitches that could influence its results (Cheng & Phillips 2014). When analyzing large-scale surveys, the researcher might also omit some less prominent but important details due to a large amount of documentation.

The researcher aims to use content analysis to determine how airport cities’ impact on business effectiveness is discussed in the research and what gaps are not addressed. With the help of content analysis, the researcher will be able to identify similar patterns in articles used as sources for research and examine whether these patterns align with the research questions and hypotheses (e.g., how the lack of standardized assessment influences cities’ effectiveness). Content analysis will help evaluate how the EFQM is perceived in research, whether there have been attempts to use it or other similar frameworks for the assessment of airport cities, and what other tools for the measurement of quality researchers have suggested.

Data Collection and Analysis

The data collection process included database research. The author used Google Scholar, Science Direct, ProQuest, and the University of Wollongong library to gather secondary data. Journal articles, books, newspaper articles, website entries, and editorials were included in the research. The search was limited to articles and other materials published from 2005 to 2017, with a preference for articles and studies published after 2012. The search included only articles published in English. Auto-alerts from Science Direct and the University of Wollongong library were also included. Furthermore, the author also used reference lists from selected articles to find additional data. Using keywords “airport city”, “airport cities”, “airports”, “EQFM”, “EQFM Excellence model”, “airport cities quality management”, “quality management”, “airport cities quality”, and “airport service quality” the author identified more than 22606 articles. Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-method studies were included in the search. Studies’ sample sizes varied from small to large; airport cities and airports were also used as units of analysis.

The exclusion criteria for secondary data were as follows:

  1. Materials are written in any other language than English.
  2. Materials are published in online wiki-websites or any other unreliable sources.
  3. Materials rely on outdated (published before 2000) data.
  4. Materials are not related to airport cities (e.g., EFQM model applied in banking, finance, etc.).
  5. Materials are not directly related to the airline industry (e.g., tourism, geography, engineering, etc.).
  6. The study does not examine quality management (e.g., a study includes a description of it but uses system management as the main framework).
  7. The study is conducted at a small airport (not an airport city/hub).
  8. The study uses quality management frameworks but primarily targets customer loyalty or any other aspect of quality management without considering others.

The sample of selected articles was divided into two major groups: articles that examine the function and quality of airport cities and services provided there and articles that discuss the effectiveness of the EFQM model. The first group consisted of eighteen articles. The sample of selected articles included qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-method studies that examine the phenomenon of airport cities about the services provided there, their management, development, and frameworks used to evaluate the quality of these cities or airport services. The second group consisted of ten articles, including both qualitative and quantitative research, although qualitative research was prevalent. The selected studies examined the utilization of the EFQM model in different industries and organizations. The author paid particular attention to the integration of the EFQM model’s factors into the business and their alignment with each other to understand whether they will be efficient in evaluating the airport cities quality.

The content analysis of the articles was as follows: the author screened studies’ analyses, findings, results, and discussion sections to identify the prevailing themes that illustrated how airport cities’ quality is measured and whether airport services are included in this measurement. The author paid specific attention to the keywords and phrases that were repeated in different articles to identify the overarching themes presented, such as the use of airport service quality (ASQ) as the main framework for measuring the effectiveness and quality of airport and airport cities. The identified overarching themes were divided into sub-themes, which indicated specific details of the topic (e.g., the exact use of ASQ for quality measurement, other factors that influence the quality, etc.). All identified overarching themes and sub-themes were added to a table and provided with a specific example (coded text) from the articles. The most frequently found themes were used as identifications of how quality measurement is perceived in airport cities’ research and whether it aligns with the EFQM model.

Results and Major Findings

The results of the conducted content analysis indicate that the use of the EFQM model is not considered in the research and management of airport cities; instead, other frameworks that are only partly aligned with the EFQM model are used by airport cities’ managers to assess them. Some of the frameworks used were designed and developed specifically for one airport city and were not tested in others (see Table 1).

Table 1. Content analysis of selected articles.

Overarching theme Sub-theme Example/Coded Text
ASQ as a framework for quality measurement. Modified ASQ with particular emphasis on customer satisfaction is an effective tool ASQ factors that impact quality: Check-in, security, convenience, ambiance, basic facilities, mobility; “the perceived level of quality is an antecedent of passenger satisfaction” (Bezerra & Gomes 2016, p. 91)
Development trends as enablers/predictors of airport city quality. Infrastructure, technology application, free trade zones, and other factors influence airport city development and quality Industrial diversification, aggressive construction, trade liberalization, regulation rationalization, environment convenience, operation globalization, and business management are key factors that have to be considered when evaluating the development of airport cities (Hong, Wu & Wang 2012; Wang et al. 2011).
Passenger-oriented perception/passenger’s perception of airport’s level of service as the main tool for quality measurement. Landside operations and specific factors (convenience, the comfort of the environment, courtesy of staff, information visibility, etc.) indicate the airport city’s quality and influence its competitiveness. “The first priority for improvement is for airport management to educate their staff about the importance of their servicing/querying attitudes” (Liou et al. 2011, p. 13729).
Infrastructure defines the quality of airport hubs and airport cities. Travel time in airports and related infrastructure (bus frequencies and bus routes, rail links, satisfactory or relatively free ground access) affect airport city’s quality. Access mode services and transfer hubs together with government policy planning “are the main criteria that affect the service
quality of an aerotropolis” (Wang, Chou & Yeo 2013, p. 396; Tam, Lam & Lo 2011).
Airport city as a concept is not defined / impossible to measure its quality as a unit. Airport cities are clusters that rely on infrastructure and markets. Both infrastructure supply and target markets are important parts of airport city development; “different agents perceive the airport city concept
differently” (Peneda, Reis & Macario 2011 p. 13).
Business intelligence as a key factor defining airport city quality. Focus on various aspects of airport cities (hospitality, leisure, commercial, finance, and other sectors) and IT as a tool for data management. Aviation-oriented businesses and transportation corridors are parts of airport cities that often rely on IT and other tools used for business intelligence (Kasarda 2013).
Airport cities as labor markets. The quality of airport cities is defined through their employment and economic activity. The emergence of airport cities helps “new suburban employment clusters [come] to maturity” (Appold 2015, p. 1150).
Cities and airports (airport cities) mutually influence each other. The quality of airport cities and their development rely on the type of city they are linked to (A-class, B-class cities). Larger cities with a bigger number of available seats (more than one million) are more likely to develop an airport city nearby due to higher passenger transfer (O’Connor & Fuellhart 2012).
Commercialization of airports/airport cities can increase their quality. Commercialization of a previously government-owned airport can result in its development into an airport city and further investment in it. Privatization of an airport can result in “the creation of new jobs,
the high quality of commercial buildings and
urban design, and the conservation of historic
structures” (Freestone & Wiesel 2014, p. 293).
Airports are the new cities. Airports are transforming into multi-modal transportation nodes that operate as full-scale cities. Rising employment rates at airports, the location of various firms and organizations near them, the emergence of services in the area are factors indicating that airports become the suburbs (Appold & Kasarda 2006). Airports lead to a non-planned growth of the city’s periphery (Correia & de Abreu e Silva 2015).
Airport’s quality is measured by evaluating different factors. The passenger, operations, business, and transfer quality are equally important. Ambiance (furniture, safety) improves passengers’ perception of the airport, orientation, and finding help them navigate in it, and communication ensures satisfaction. Improved orientation also leads to a greater number of purchases at retail stores. The airport can share flight data with retailers to adjust products to potential passengers’ demands (Jäger 2017).
Airport cities largely depend on logistics and positioning. Land positioning, availability, and efficient use, together with applied urban logistics increase the effectiveness of an airport city. The efficient use of the limited land, reasonable integration of various operators, and the presence of good infrastructure positively influence airport quality (Flores-Fillol, Garcia-López & Nicolini 2016). City logistics can cover the needs of various users; it is effective “due to the powerful linkages between this subsystem and the economic and
business-related activities” (Boloukian & Siegmann 2016).
Airports as sources of revenue. Airport cities can become new drivers of loco-regional development by attracting service activities. Non-aviation income, including such services as hotels, banks, personal/family services, medical facilities, free-trade zones maximize the revenue from airport land (Chandu 2017).
The Airport city’s quality depends on public transportation and ground system access. Both nonaviation and aviation travel demands regulate access to the airport. The quality of an airport city relies on the nonaviation and aviation travel demand; the capacity of public transport service influences ground system access’ quality, as nonaviation travel demand exceeds the aviation one (Orth & Weidmann 2014).

As can be seen from the content analysis, there is no existing framework sufficient for the evaluation of the airport cities. Some researchers use ASQ as the primary tool, while others prefer to measure the quality of the airport separately from other areas of the airport city. Due to the lack of any tool suitable for the measurement of the airport cities’ quality, EFQM is proposed as a solution to this problem.

EFQM Content Analysis

To evaluate whether EFQM is a suitable framework for measuring airport cities’ quality, the author aims to use content analysis selecting up to ten articles about the implementation of the EFQM in different facilities (governmental, private) to see whether this framework was efficient in measuring and improving the quality of a facility/service (see Table 2).

Table 2. Content analysis of selected articles related to EFQM.

Overarching theme Sub-theme Example/coded text
EFQM can improve management. EFQM improves management review by making it more detailed and proactive. Excellence is “a new, higher
the baseline level of quality management”; self-assessment can be used in addition to ISO (Petrič & Gomišček 2011, p. 111).
EFQM is a tool for evaluating free trade zones. Each of the EFQM criteria ensures an effective assessment of the zone. The EFQM is “a powerful model for reflecting the image of the requirement for
all of the organizational goals” (Jafari 2013, p. 26).
EFQM as a framework that targets staff/clientele satisfaction specifically. There is a relation between staff results and organizational performance. Staff results influence both organizational performance and customers’ satisfaction; specific attention should be paid to support of human resources and their education in the facility (Gorji, Siami & Jenabagha 2011).
EFQM is effective but bureaucratic. EFQM’s well-developed and detailed criteria require time-consuming bureaucratic work. Due to the complexity of the EFQM organizations might fail at recording their outcomes properly, even though they meet EFQM criteria for excellence (Gašparík, Gašparíková & Ellingerová 2014).
EFQM as a package. There is no need for tailoring EFQM to the specific needs of an organization. Spanish organizations that won business excellence awards adopted the EFQM as a package and interpreted it similarly; people management is especially important for achieving excellence (Escrig & de Menezes 2015).
EFQM as an improvement tool for knowledge management. EFQM positively influences both knowledge management and supplier and partner management. Companies can use the EFQM as a basis for designing and implementing knowledge management project; companies that use EFQM “can improve
their key results, strengthening the value of knowledge” (Calvo-Mora, Navarro-García & Periañez-Cristobal 2015, p. 14).
EFQM can assist in supporting information capability/information orientation (IO). Each of the criteria of EFQM can support IO. A carefully designed system that supports the IO approach can help monitor organizational quality system; the EFQM “should also emphasize the importance of values and behaviors associated with the
efficient use of information” (Zárraga-Rodríguez & Álvarez 2014, p. 720).
EFQM and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) are related. Focus on people and people results in EFQM and CSR makes them mutually related. Both EFQM and CSR emphasize ethical codices, taking advantage of partnerships, establishing commitments, ensure cooperation with internal and external customers (Cierna & Sujova 2015). The CRS concept is present in 29 sub-criteria of a total of 32 sub-criteria (Jankal & Jankalova 2016).
EFQM should be perceived as a whole (impossible to divide) model. Enablers and results in EFQM are important for the effective implementation of the framework. To implement the EFQM as effectively as possible, “a balanced approach to the development of the
enablers’ criteria make it possible to maximize the
correlation between enablers’ criteria and results criteria, and
therefore, obtain an optimal gain” from the model (Alsarayreh & Khudair 2012, p. 54).

As can be seen, research on the EFQM emphasizes various aspects, such as the importance of perceiving and implementing the model as a whole, the significance of people and people results and their relation to the overall organizational performance, and the general effectiveness of the EFQM in management and its ability to improve its effectiveness.


The content analysis of the selected articles provide deep insights into the issue of airport cities, their management and quality, and the use of the EFQM as an effective tool for measuring the quality of organizations and their organizational performance. First, the content analysis of airport cities has shown that no common framework exists to evaluate the quality of airport cities. Depending on the organization, ASQ, ISO, or TQM are used as methods for assessing quality. Another problem is the perception of airport cities as separate districts rather than a larger unit. Due to such division, quality management uses specific frameworks to assess separate divisions or districts of airport cities (e.g., the airport itself, cargo district, logistics, hospitality, etc.) but does not evaluate the effectiveness of airport cities as a whole.

Although the research agrees that business intelligence is crucial in defining airport city quality, no specific framework for such measurement was presented in any research or by any author. Furthermore, additional difficulties in establishing the general framework for assessing the quality of airport cities are created by the lack of consent among researchers about the definition of the “airport city”. As it was indicated in the content analysis, some of the researchers (Peneda, Reis &Macario 2011) point out that “airport city” as a definition is too vague to be applied, whereas others (Appold & Kasarda 2006; Correia &de Abreu e Silva 2015; O’Connor & Fuellhart 2012) use this concept as an established definition (together with various synonyms such as the metropolis, for example). The author identified the lack of consistency in the evaluation of airport cities’ quality; the EFQM model is not simply omitted in the research but is not even proposed as a suitable framework for creating pillars of measurement of airport cities’ quality. At the same time, it appears that the EFQM model might be highly suitable as a tool for evaluation for the following reasons:

  1. The EFQM model is transparent and applicable to any organization. No specific changes or transformations are necessary thanks to the universal criteria it uses.
  2. The model ensures improvements in management, raising the baseline, and making the process of managing more detailed. It emphasizes the company’s goals, mission, and vision, and allows documenting and capturing main activities and projects necessary for goal achievement.
  3. The model can be used specifically for the evaluation of free trade zones that are almost always present in international airports. Each of the EFQM’s criteria applies to the evaluation of free trade zones and indicates what changes can be done about each criterion.
  4. The EFQM’s particular focus on people and people results, together with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), has the potential to create the organizational culture in airport city that will support equality, commitment, and fairness, thus influencing and improving people results (clientele’s expectations and needs).
  5. As airport cities are large units, the tracking of their organizational quality system needs to rely not only on appropriate and reliable IT technologies but also on a framework that will support the effective use of IT. As Zárraga-Rodríguez and Álvarez (2014) point out, each of the criteria in the EFQM can be used for the support of the information orientation framework that focuses on the efficient and reasonable use of IT technologies in an organization.
  6. Airport cities have become large labor markets. The EFQM can be used to assess the quality of working conditions, staff satisfaction, staff burnout, and the influence of such labor market on the overall effectiveness and quality of the airport city.
  7. The use of the EFQM model together with the information orientation will pave the way for using full-scale business intelligence technologies. Both business intelligence and EFQM will bring organizational performance to a new level.
  8. The development of general policies, plans, objectives, and aims for the whole unit (airport city) rather than its districts/parts based on the EFQM will results in better congruence in organizational vision and mission.
  9. Partnerships and resources are crucial for airport cities. The adoption of the EFQM model will help manage external partnerships and the distribution of resources by organizational goals.
  10. Airport cities become new suburbs, Appold & Kasarda (2006) point out. Ethical behavior, environmental programs, sustainable business models, and positive brand image are essential for the organization to ensure that the suburban life of the airport city’s inhabitants is not adversely affected by organizational processes. The EFQM model can help achieve it through its social results.
  11. Instead of evaluating each district/part as a separate unit, the airport city can use segment results to evaluate separate areas and their performance. Such an approach is less costly and more efficient than a full-scale evaluation of one area.
  12. The EFQM model can help the company compare its results with other players (e.g., other airport cities) to see whether they need additional reviews of the target setting.

Despite the multiple advantages of the EFQM model, it is important to consider any weaknesses it has to understand what impact it might have on the organization. The implementation of the EFQM model requires experienced and reliable leaders who will act as role models and inspire others to achieve organizational goals and aims, as well as translate the company’s vision. Without a talented leader, the EFQM will be much more ineffective. Another problem is the paperwork required for the implementation of the EFQM. Gašparík, Gašparíková, and Ellingerová (2014) point out that keeping records of enablers and results requires significant bureaucratic work, which might adversely influence the organization if any mistakes are made or misunderstandings take place. For example, some managers might misunderstand the sub-criteria described in the model (Gašparík, Gašparíková & Ellingerová 2014).

Organizations that do meet the quality requirements often fail to record their progress and results due to the complexity of the model. Incorrect definitions of criteria used might result in low scores in an otherwise highly professional organization, which leads to disappointment and rejection of the EFQM model. Therefore, if it is implemented, the process of the implementation should be supervised by a team of trained professionals who understand how the EFQM model works and how its reports are used to evaluate the quality of the organization. Gašparík, Gašparíková, and Ellingerová (2014) notice that if one top manager decides to implement the EFQM model and delegates its implementation to employees at lower positions, this decision will inevitably meet confrontation and non-acceptance. Thus, an agreement between all key employees regarding the use of the EFQM is necessary.

Despite the mentioned weaknesses, the EFQM model is useful in increasing organizational competitive advantage and social responsibility as its criteria specifically target either of these concepts. The EFQM emphasizes the importance of leadership, partnerships, employees, and strategies, while it also seeks to sustain the economic, environmental, and social responsibility of the company. The RADAR logic is also effective in assessing both enablers and results and understanding how they influence the overall organizational performance. With the RADAR logic, airport cities will be able to evaluate the excellence of the results and make improvements in various projects if necessary.

Conclusions and Managerial Recommendations

As can be seen from the analyzed data and research findings, the EFQM Excellence Model is a suitable framework for evaluating airport cities’ quality and understanding their strengths and weaknesses. Its main advantages include the focus on organizational goals and objectives as a whole, the input of human resources in the excellence of the organization, and the ability to provide better congruence between airport city’s units in understanding and translating organizational vision and mission. The EFQM model requires detailed and extensive reporting, which usually results in difficult bureaucratic processes. The organization needs to be prepared for these processes; otherwise, the use of the EFQM model will not be as practical as expected and might result in errors.

The managerial recommendations are as follows:

  1. Before implementing the EFQM model, ensure that an organizational vision and mission, as well as goals, are carefully and formulated. Their translation will be possible with a strong leader present, but if they are poorly formulated, no leader will be able to inspire their followers to work on a project that has unclear objectives and seems not to lead anywhere.
  2. The EFQM model requires strong and effective leadership. Transformational leadership that focuses on motivating followers, increasing their commitment to a project, and guiding them to make the needed change can be effective when implementing the EFQM model.
  3. When evaluating airport cities, specific attention should be paid to segment results in the EFQM model. Segment results define the performance, needs, and expectations of a specific area. Depending on the unit, segment results may vary. While the airport facility will pay attention to passengers’ safety and satisfaction, the cargo unit will be more concerned with the effective use of logistics and punctual delivery, thus focusing on another group of stakeholders. The EFQM model, in this case, will address both the unique needs of all units but also evaluate the airport city as a whole, encouraging better cooperation and communication between various areas.
  4. Any airport city that aims to implement the EFQM model needs to consider the investments and expected returns from the project. The use of the EFQM model will be justified only if experienced and trained personnel are involved. As was mentioned above, misunderstandings might frequently happen if managers and the employees they supervise are not aware of the complexities and details of the EFQM.
  5. The implementation of the EFQM must be timely. If the organization is unable to ensure the gradual implementation of the framework and does not have enough human and financial resources to do so, it should consider using other frameworks.
  6. The implementation of the EFQM is likely to be beneficial to companies that use the ASQ model or ISO because the EFQM covers all areas presented in the mentioned quality assessment frameworks; at the same time, the EFQM is also more detailed due to the presence of sub-categories that allow a better understanding of the assessment of enablers and results. Therefore, the EFQM is recommended as a more detailed and thorough model of quality assessment compared to ASQ and ISO.

The obtained data can help improve organizational performance and bring the company closer to achieving business excellence.

Limitations and Future Research

The limitations of this study are due to the qualitative method used in the research. Research bias is inevitable in collecting the necessary data (articles and literature) for content analysis as their value is estimated subjectively. Furthermore, qualitative research cannot be statistically representative, because it uses perspective-based methods of research. Due to its in-depth nature, qualitative research usually incorporates a small scope of recourses (e.g., the number of articles), which are not always generalizable. The findings of this research only apply to large airport cities that already exist, as the changing business environment will transform the needs and aims of soon-to-emerge airport cities. This research also does not rely on any unique data collected by the author as it uses articles and literature dedicated to the problem.

Future research should focus on the effectiveness of the EFQM model in measuring airport cities’ quality in real life; it might examine the implementation of the model, its use (or misuse), and the possible difference in expected and final results of the implementation. Additionally, the research can be dedicated to the implementation of the model in several airport cities to understand what other aspects (cultural, geographical, social, etc.) might influence it and whether its use and effectiveness vary depending on the airport city.


The study has contributed to the existing research on airport cities and quality measurement in the following ways: first, it identified and addressed the gaps is research pertaining the lack of a unified approach toward the measurement of airport cities’ quality; second, it provided a suitable framework for such measurement, addressing its advantages and disadvantages; third, it examined how the quality of airport cities is addressed in research and what frameworks are used for its measurement; fourth, it indicated why the EFQM model is the most suitable framework for creating pillars of measuring airport cities’ quality; fifth, it provided managerial recommendations on how the EFQM model should be implemented and whether any factors should be considered before its implementation.

“Airport City” is a relatively new concept that is often perceived as synonymous with the vast number of facilities, districts, and units that operate in the airport city. The study examined airport cities as whole systems, which quality depends on the congruence between the facilities operating within this system. The perception of airport cities as fully-fledged units supports the need for an assessment framework that will evaluate them from a holistic point of view. This study demonstrated that the EFQM model is suitable for creating pillars that will be capable of measuring the quality of these unique units.

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