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Review of the Research Problems
According to the introduction and literature review chapters, the aspects that need to be analysed in this research are the perceptions that consumers have on the service quality of the airline industry with particular focus on the airline industry in Cyprus.
The aspect of prioritising service quality factors based on customer perceptions will also be analysed in the research as well as the inconsistency that exists between customer perception of quality and the actual performance of service quality in the airline industry.
The literature review has dealt with the aspects that are related to service quality perceptions as well as the satisfaction of customers. It has provided a foundation to the study by focusing on past research and studies that have been conducted on customer perception on service quality in the service industry.
The research seeks to answer the question of how customers that use Cyprus airlines perceive the service quality of these airlines.
According to the literature review, service quality is measured by the tangibility of the consumer’s surroundings which is represented by objects or subjects, the reliability of the service provider, the involvement and interaction of the service provider, the assurance that the customer will get a wide range of services and the readiness of the company to provide the customer with individualised services (Nadiri and Hussain 2005).
The measurement of the various aspects of service quality in the Cyprus airline industry involved analysing the airline tangibles, which include the cleanliness of the airplanes, the airport and the staff as well as the terminal’s facilities.
Service quality was also measured in terms of empathy where the readiness of the airline staff to help customers and the punctuality of the airline was analysed. The availability of health care facilities in the airport and the care of passenger luggage was also measured.
The appropriate methodology that will be used to collect and analyse data that is important to the research will involve determining the sample of the study. In this research, the sample of the study will consist of customers who use the various airline companies that are based in Cyprus.
The non-probability sampling technique will be used to determine and this method of sampling is relevant to the study because it selects samples of the population that are judged to be a typical representation of this population. Non-probabilistic sampling involves the use of samples that have been selected in way that has not been suggested in probability theories.
Some of the most common methods in non-probability sampling include snowball sampling, purposive or judgmental sampling, quota sampling and reliance on available subjects. For the purposes of this study, the non-probability technique that will be used to sample the population will be the judgmental sampling of passengers in the airport (Babbie 2008).
The type of data collection technique that will be incorporated within this research will be the use of questionnaires that will be distributed to passengers of the various airlines in Cyprus. The use of questionnaires is suitable for this research, especially if the sample population is large in number.
Questionnaires are also suitable as they provide the researcher with a detailed explanation of the various aspects that are under study by the researcher. The questionnaires will be self- administered where the passengers will be encouraged to fill them out based on their general perception of the airlines service quality.
The main aspects that will be covered by the questionnaire include service quality and customer perceptions, which will be represented by the questions or items. The items in the questionnaire will measure the dimensions of the SERVQUAL scale, which is also known as the RATER scale.
The dimensions of the RATER scale include reliability, assurance, tangibles (airline tangibles, terminal tangibles, image and personnel tangibles), empathy and responsiveness. The SERVQUAL scale developed by Parasuraman et al. (1988) was designed to address the gaps that existed between customers’ expectations of service quality and their perceptions of the actual performance of the service.
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The items in the questionnaire will, therefore, measure the reliability of the Cyprus airline industry as well as the assurance that exists within these airlines. The questionnaire will also cover tangibles such as airline tangibles under the SERVQUAL scale, such as the cleanliness of the aircraft, the quality of food provided in the plane, the cleanliness of the planes seats and toilet seats and the quality of air-conditioning within the planes.
Terminal tangibles will also be measured in the questionnaire such as the cleanliness of the airports toilets, the number of shops available in the airport, the availability of parking within the airport, the comfort of waiting lounges in the airport, the level of air conditioning within the airport and within the smoking areas, availability of trolleys in the airport and the number of passengers that the airport can hold at a given time (Parasuraman et al. 1988).
The questionnaire will also measure tangibles that are related to personnel within the airport such as the general attitude of airport staff, the responsiveness of airline staff, the level of personnel care accorded to every passenger, the level of empathy that airline personnel have to their passengers, the level of training and experience that the employees have, awareness of airport duties and the level of error-free reservations and transactions.
Another item that will be measured in the questionnaire will be empathy, where the punctuality of flight arrivals and departures will be measured as well as transportation to the airport (Nadiri et al. 2008).
Other items that will be measured under empathy will be compensation schemes available to passengers, the care of passenger’s luggage, number of flights available to passengers, the locations of airline offices within and outside the airport and the availability of health care services during the flight.
The questionnaire will also include an image item that will be used to measure the general perception that the customer has of the image of the airline, the availability of low ticker prices and the consistency of airline ticket prices.
Finally, the questionnaire will include a customer satisfaction item that will measure the satisfaction that the customer has with the airline, the impression that the customer has of whether the airline has improved and the general attitude of the customer towards the airline (Nadiri et al. 2008).
The questionnaire will also include an item that deals with loyalty of the customer towards Cyprus airlines by analysing the repurchase intentions of the customer, such as whether they consider the airlines to be their first choice and whether they will continue to use the airline in the future.
The responsiveness aspect of the SERVQUAL scale will also be measured in the questionnaire to ascertain whether the Cyprus airline industry is responding well to its customer’s needs. Each item in the questionnaire will be measured by a five-point Likert scale where the scale items, reliabilities and corrected item-total correlations will be used to analyse the results of the questionnaire.
The SERVQUAL scale is suitable for this study as it measures the behavioural intentions of airlines and airline passenger by measuring customer satisfaction and the service quality dimensions that are included in the RATER scale (Parasuraman et al. 1988).
Through the consideration of Parasuraman et al’s study on airline service quality and customer perceptions, several hypotheses for the study can be developed. The first hypothesis H1, based on the SERVQUAL scale will be a “high level of perceived reliability related to service quality, will have a positive effect on customer satisfaction.” (Nadiri et al. 2008)
Another hypothesis that can be derived from the SERVQUAL scale, H2 will be “a high level of perceived assurance related to service quality will lead to positive effect on customer satisfaction. With regards to tangibles on the SERVQUAL scale the hypothesis H3, will be “a high level of perceived tangibles related to quality will have a significant impact on customer satisfaction.
Hypothesis four, which is related to customer empathy will be “a high level of perceived empathy related to service quality will have a significant effect on customer satisfaction and repurchase intentions (Nadiri et al. 2008).
The hypothesis that will be used to reflect the responsiveness of the airline industry in the SERVQUAL scale will be “a high level of perceived responsiveness will have a significant positive effect on customer satisfaction”. After the questionnaires have been filled, the study dimensions within the questionnaire will be related to the hypothesized relationships.
The diagram below represents service quality dimensions of the SERVQUAL scale measured by airline tangibles (ATANG), terminal tangibles (TTANG), personnel (PER), empathy (EMP) and image (IMG) as well as their link with the hypothesized relationships within the study.
The dimensions are represented by circles which demonstrate the independent and dependent variables of the study. The hypotheses demonstrated by the arrows are used to measure both customer satisfaction with the airlines in Cyprus and their repurchase intention (Nadiri et al. 2008)
(Source: Nadiri et al. 2008)
Primary and Secondary Research Data
Research data can be collected from either primary sources of information or secondary sources of data. Primary data refers to information that has been collected by a researcher that has not been subjected to any forms of processing or manipulation. Primary data, which is also known as raw data is the information that the researcher gathers as he continues to conduct his studies.
Raw data is usually generated from experimentation and field studies where the researcher collects information that has not been previously collected by other researchers. For primary data to become information, it has to undergo selective extraction and analysis to ensure that it is suitable for presentation (Thyer 2010).
Secondary data is information that has been collected by someone else apart from the user of the research. The most commonly used resources of secondary data comprise of surveys, questionnaires, census results, academic journals, articles, books, government records and data collected via qualitative or quantitative research.
Secondary data is the most preferred source of data collection as it ensures that the researcher saves time while collecting the relevant information that pertains to the study. It also ensures that less time is spent in collecting quantitative data, which requires the development of higher quality databases to capture quantitative information (Thyer 2010).
The source of secondary data in quantitative research is from censuses, surveys and government statistics. The source of secondary data in qualitative research is derived from structured or non-structured interviews, observation, questionnaires and focus groups (Thyer 2010).
The type of data collection method that will be used for this study will be secondary data sources such as journals, articles, websites, textbooks, statistics, reports and surveys that contain information qualitative and quantitative information based on previous studies and research work that has been conducted on service quality and customer satisfaction with particular focus on the airline industry.
The use of secondary data will be important to the study as it will save on time and also ensure that the research has a strong theoretical background and framework based on previous research and theories.
Research Design and Data Analysis Techniques
The purpose of a research design is to determine whether the research questions of the study can be transformed into testable hypotheses. In selecting the most suitable research design, the researcher has to first assess the research questions of the study. Once the research questions have been developed, the researcher has the option of selecting various research methods to structure the research in a suitable way.
The most commonly used research designs include experimental designs, non-experimental designs and quasi-experimental research designs.
The experimental research design involves the researcher actively trying to change the circumstances of the research while the non-experimental research design involves the researcher studying two natural groups that are under conditions or circumstances that have not been manipulated (Creswell 2003)
The quasi-experiment research design is an observational study that is conducted on the subjects of a study who have not been randomly assigned to the groups that are understudy. In a quasi-experiment, people would be grouped according to the categories in which they fit in.
The research design that will be used for the purposes of this study will be the non-experimental research design as it ensures that the circumstances or conditions of the aspects or subjects that are understudy have not been manipulated or changed in anyway.
The non-experimental design will also ensure that a range of dependent and independent variables can be able to be measured by the researcher during the study, such as the various dimensions of the SERVQUAL scale and the customer perception of service quality in Cyprus airlines (Creswell 2003).
The data analysis technique that will be used to analyse the qualitative information within the research will be the constant comparison or grounded theory assesses secondary data sources to determine whether any indicators exist that can be used to explain the consistencies and differences in customer perceptions and service quality.
The constant comparison method will also assess the various theoretical frameworks and conceptual backgrounds that exist in various research works that have been conducted on the topic that is understudy. It will also ensure that the researcher is able to compare the various works of researchers with regards to the airline industry in Cyprus (Ratcliff 2011).
In analysing the qualitative information that has been collected in the study, the most suitable data analysis method that will be used to analyse the statistical measurements derived from the Likert scale will be the SPSS computer program which will provide a descriptive analysis of the standard deviations and frequencies that have been calculated for the five dimensions of the SERVQUAL scale which include airline tangibles, personnel, empathy, image and terminal tangibles.
The psychometric properties of the collected data will also be measured on the basis of reliability, convergence and dimensionality.
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Parasuraman, A., Zeithaml, V.A. and Berry, L.L. (1988) SERVQUAL: a multiple-tem scale for measuring consumer perceptions of service quality. Journal of Retailing, Vol.64, No.1, 00 12 -40.
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Thyer, B., (2010)The handbook of social work research methods. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications, Print.