Consumer Behaviour in the Airline Industry

Term Paper 2005 14 Pages

Business economics - Offline Marketing and Online Marketing


Table of contents

List of Figures

1 Question one

2 Question two

3 Question three


List of Figures

Figure number Name of Figure

Figure 1 Consumer behaviour

Figure 2 An overview of the motivation process

Figure 3 Standard Learning Hierarchy

Figure 4 A five-stage customer purchase process

Figure 5 An overview of the perceptual process

Figure 6 The Disconfirmation Paradigm

1 Question one

How has Aer Lingus attempted to put its customers at the forefront of its business development?

Air Lingus has anxiously attempted to become even more customer-focused since 1996, when the company realised its new strategy to “put people first in its marketing programmes” (Aer Lingus Case Study, 2005).

In this context, it is worthwhile to consider why a ‘customer-focus’ strategy is at the heart of Aer Lingus’ programme? According to Vandermerwe (2004), customer focus is the key for to expand its business operations and to compete successfully on the market. Several researchers could show that a company is more successful when they embrace a customer-orientated strategy (Narver, et al., 2000; Slater and Narver 2000). Furthermore, the CEO of MarketAbility Allen (2005) states that the “focus on the customer can deliver far more value than an interminable focus on cost, efficiency and production”, as the customer drives the demand. ‘Customer-focus’ or ‘customer-orientation is defined as “the set of beliefs that puts the customer's interest first, while not excluding those of all other stakeholders ...in order to develop a long-term profitable [viable] enterprise” (Deshpandé et al., 1993). An example of a successful implementation of customer-orientation is the case of Continental Airline. Due to Gulati (1992), the airline lost million of dollars because of a ‘service mess’. Then, the company began collect, consolidate and analyse customer information in order to understand their customer’s needs. Finally, they could turn again into a profitable company.

Aer Lingus competes in the transatlantic long-haul sector, within the European Union, in the UK market and domestically within Ireland. With the arrival of the low-cost airlines, Aer Lingus decided to compete in the full service segment, focusing on the premium business class. As the company believes that the ability to satisfy its target customers presents one of their most competitive advantages, the company wants to put the customer at the forefront of its business such as in the case of the Continental Airline. To realise this aim, the company must increase its already strong emphasis on quality and service. One essential role to increase the service quality is their personnel, especially recruitment, attitudes, training, abilities, and motivation. On the other hand, the environment such as the terminal, the aircraft, and the booking point are important factors.

With these issues in mind, Aer Lingus developed its new marketing ‘programme for a better airline’ with the customer in the centre of the business. They analysed the market in order to adapt their current positioning to their target segment. Furthermore, the company holds on-going contact with their customers in form of customer feedback and group discussions. With 50 passengers and 50 staff from various functions, Aer Lingus managed to identify the needs and wants of their customers. This customer-oriented market research supported the company strongly to modify its marketing mix to their customers’ needs. Aer Lingus’ marketing managers are continuously informed about the expectations of the customers through on-going qualitative research.

The marketing programme focuses on their customer’s key concerns, which could be structured and prioritised as follow:

1. Punctuality
2. Queuing
3. In-flight experience
4. Baggage delivery
5. Airport facilities

After identifying the customer needs, Aer Lingus focused on these issues in their programme to put the customer’s wishes at the forefront. The consequences were that they became the most punctual airline compared to its competitors. They reduced the queuing times though check-in facilities and fast-track security channels, new baggage delivery systems and airport lounges. More service personnel were deployed with increased emphasis on their key strengths: friendliness and helpfulness. Through the realisation of a customer-oriented business and enhancing customer value, Aer Lingus could successfully compete against their competitors and become a profitable airline.

2 Question two

Knowledge of which aspects of their customers’ buying behaviour would most assist in the company’s decision-making?

In order to answer which aspects of the customers’ buying behaviour would assist Aer Lingus, it is worthwhile to define customer behaviour and investigate its aspects in the first place. The most important aspects to assist Aer Lingus’ decision-making can then be identified.

Hoyer (2001) defines consumer behaviour as “the totality of consumers’ decisions with respect to the acquisition, consumption, and disposition of goods, services, time and ideas by (human) decision making units [over time]”. The graphic below shows what consumer behaviour reflects in detail:

The totality about the of an by decision- over time

of decisions consumption offering making units

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 1: Consumer behaviour (Hoyer, 2001).

This demonstrates that consumer behaviour presents more than just how a person buys a product (Hoyer, 2001; Antonides et al, 2001). However, the manner in which consumers buy is an important issue. According to Hoyer (2001), buying is considered as just one type of acquisition behaviour - as there are others of obtaining products and services, for example, leasing and trading. A similar definition of consumer behaviour is given by Solomon (1995), describing it as “the study of the processes involved when individuals or groups select, purchase, use, or dispose products, services, ideas, or experiences to satisfy needs and desires”. Antonides et al (2001) also distinguish between goods and services to define consumer behaviour respectively tangible and intangible products. Furthermore, they include the individual/ collective dimension into their broad definition.

The definitions explain the term ‘customer behaviour’; they also indicate that customer buying behaviour includes a wide range of different aspects. In the following, the most essential aspects of consumer behaviour such as consumer motivation, needs, consumers’ attitudes, and learning theories are considered.



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University of Teesside – Teesside Business School
Consumer Behaviour Airline Industry



Title: Consumer Behaviour in the Airline Industry