Investigating Service Failures in the Airline Industry

Subject: Transportation
Pages: 4
Words: 894
Reading time:
4 min
Study level: Bachelor


In the airline industry, differences between passengers’ good and bad flight experiences are caused by a number of service failures like missed connections, cancellations, seat denials, baggage mishandling, or flight delays (Suzuki, 2004). These service failures influence the reputation of the airline and thus the probability of the travellers choosing the airline. The choice of an airline by a customer is determined by the anticipated maximum utilities and good travel experience.


This paper aims at addressing two of the service failures in the airline industry and how they impact on a passenger’s travel choices. Firstly, the paper looks at the impacts of service failures on the industry such as considerable airline delays, mishandling of baggage (entailing damage, loss, delay and/or pilferage) and bumping (seat denial).

Secondly, this paper aims at highlighting the significance of employee response in ensuring customer satisfaction in the airline industry. More often than not, airline passengers have attributed services failures to lack of routine response on the side of the service providers.

Research Approach

The majority of customers in the airline industry believe that the airlines are responsible for failures, which are assumed to be within their control. Such failures call for routine response, unlike those failures coming from unpredictable and uncontrollable exogenous factors. Therefore, attribution theory would be relevant for this study. The choice of this model can be strongly supported by the fact that attribution theory suggests that customers are in an unrelenting search for reasons for service failures and that the same reasons considerably impact on their satisfaction (Anderson, Davis & Widener, 2005). Moreover, customer satisfaction is dependent on attribution. In the airline industry, attribute-based customer satisfaction model purports that the overall utility that a passenger derives is a function of utility received from constituent elements of the service concept such as seat space, food, customer interactions with gate agents and flight attendants and flight timelessness (Armstrong, 2001).

Literature Review

It is important to note that the most important issue in the airline industry today is delays, which on many occasions have inconvenienced the customers. It is a negative experience for the passengers to be delayed supposedly by the airline. This is because these passengers may not even know for how longer they are to stay in the airport (Wong, McCain & Liu, n.d.). In addition, waiting for a flight is incredibly frustrating and annoying. Waiting may not be one of the passenger favourite experience since it predisposes the passengers to such unpleasant reactions as irritation, boredom, tension, anxiety, humiliation, frustration, and anger (Wong, McCain & Liu, n.d).

Service operations failures are likely to induce a measurable change in the customer’s satisfaction as well as in the customer satisfaction model. For instance, flight delays amount to a compositional change in the model of customer satisfaction. The customer’s attribution in this service failure is blame, which is more common among business travellers than leisure travellers. So, it is imperative to make dynamic adjustments in services delivery systems in the event of service operation failures in order to ensure the delivery of unswerving and outstanding customer satisfaction (Stauss, 2002). Since service delivery systems in the airline industry are extraordinarily dependent on interactions between employees, the likely managerial response would include carrying out a more elaborated employee training geared towards addressing future foreseeable failures (Anderson, Davis & Widener, 2005). It may also be necessary for the airline managers to instil a stouter company culture as well as adopt delegation of decision rights strategy to those employees who have showed commitment (Suzuki, 2004).


In dealing with the issue of the impact of service operation failures and the significance of employee service in the airline industry, inclusive data are required. Thus, this study makes use of the random sampling approach for both passengers and aircrafts in collecting these needed data (Stauss, 2002). Except this, the passengers are presented with fill-in questionnaires, where they have to avail such information as the flight date, flight number, the airline, the class of the service flown and their respective ratings of satisfaction, with vast aspects of their individual air travel experience.


It is recommendable that various service operation management and marketing strategies be applied by service providers in order to mitigate the negative effects which these failures have had on customer satisfaction in the airline industry (Armstrong, 2001). The service providers ought to instil the same to their employees through training. Managers are also urged to make sure that they effectively deploy the right service concept to the right customers and at the right time.

Appendix one: Analysis of the 3 academic journal articles

Number of Articles or Title of Articles Author’s Name Year Critical Points on Literature Review Methodology used by the author/s Gaps/Future Studies
Article 1:
Peer reviewed
Suzuki, Y 2004
  • Effects of customer satisfaction with the airline services on customer choices.
  • Qualitative and quantitative research
Need to consider other case studies.
Peer Reviewed
Article 2.
Anderson, S.W., Davis, G. & Widener. S.K 2005
  • Importance of customer service in the airline industry in the United States.
  • Role of employee response in customer services.
Quantitative research.
Quantitative research.
There is a need for comparative studies which will focus on the global airline industry.
Article 3.
Non-Peer Review Article
Armstrong, D. 2001 The effects of customer services on the customer satisfaction. Quantitative research.
Quantitative research.
More research should be carried out comparing different airlines and customer services.


Anderson, S.W., Davis, G. & Widener, S.K. (2005). Customer Satisfaction During Service Operations Failures in the U.S. Airline Industry: Evidence on the Importance of Employee Response. Web.

Armstrong, D. (2001). You Can Take it With You; Airlines Adding Carry-On Space to Delight of Passengers but Chagrin of Flight Attendants. The San Francisco Chronicle. Web.

Stauss, B. (2002). The Dimensions of Complaint Satisfaction: Process and Outcome Complaint Satisfaction versus Cold Fact and Warm Act Complaint Satisfaction. Managing Service Quality, 12(3), 173-83.

Suzuki, Y. (2004). The Impact of Airline Service Failures on Travelers’ Carrier Choice: A Case Study of Central Iowa. Transportation Journal. 43(2), 26-36.

Wong, K.L., McCain, S.C. & Liu, Y. (n.d.). Passengers’ Perception of Service Recovery During Flight Delays. Web.