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Asif Zamri Zainol, Faculty of Business Management, Universiti Utara Malaysia Abd. Rahim Romle, Faculty of Public Management and Law, Universiti Utara Malaysia
ABSTRACT The very essence of airline survivability is the services and facilities provided. However, with the introduction of cheap frills discounted airline; Air Asia, the need of service quality itself is being questioned. Are the passengers’ more receptive towards price rather than service quality when it comes to flying domestically? The purpose of this survey is to explore the passengers’ views on service quality provided by the Malaysia Airlines and Air Asia that they experienced. Chang and Yeh’s (2002) modified model of SERVQUAL was used in this study while integrating Parasuraman et al. (1985) original five-point Likert scale. The study was conducted in the departure hall of Langkawi International Airport. The respondents consisting of 180 passengers of whom have had experience with both airlines were selected based on convenience sampling. Descriptive analysis and mean comparison were used to analyze the data. There were two main findings in this exploration. First, both of the airlines do not meet the service quality standard expected by the passengers. Secondly, majority of the respondents participating in this study, during this duration and route, choose price over service quality. Keywords: Service Quality, Airlines Industry, Passenger Handling, Malaysia, Airlines, Air Asia, SERVQUAL INTRODUCTION Gilbert and Wong (2002) quoted; “It has been suggested that delivering superior service quality is a prerequisite for success and survival in today’s competitive business environment. However, some may feel price is an important aspect of demand. As Collis (1998), IATA in 997 carried out research in North America, Europe and Asia and found passengers favored punctuality (65 per cent) and scheduling (52 per cent) over price (37 per cent).” This does not mean that price factors are to be taken lightly as cost structures and competitive pricing are of extreme importance. This study is about understanding what is expected from the airline companies by the passengers to provide the desired service quality and to identify service quality receptiveness as opposed to price sensitivity. This paper will attempt in linking customer expectations and service quality, and highlight of passenger’s initial decision making criteria. The expectations construct has been viewed as playing a key role in consumer evaluation of service quality (Gronroos, 1999; Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry, (1985; 1988). Its meaning in the service quality literature is similar to the ideal standard in the consumer satisfaction/ dissatisfaction literature. In the airline industry context the problem is whether management can perceive correctly what passengers want and expect. Moreover, expectations serve as standards or reference points for customers. In evaluating service quality, passengers compare what they perceive they get in a service encounter with their expectations of that encounter. Assessing passenger expectations is not a static exercise as passengers are becoming increasingly sensitive to quality. However, not all service dimensions are equally important to all passengers, because no two passengers are precisely alike, especially when demographics such as purposes of traveling are considered (gilbert and Wong, 2002). Parasuraman, Ziethaml and Berry first formulate the dimensions of service quality in 1985. SERVQUAL, short for “service quality” as is commonly known, took into consideration the assessment of customer’s point of view in term of the gap between expectations of a particular service and the evaluation of the said service by a particular provider.
As of the moment. namely reliability. destination coverage etc. 1999).5 million in profits a month since introducing an aggressive cheap fares program in January 2002 (Business Times. 2001). Juhary and Ilias. Brysland and Curry. (2006. experience. understanding/knowing the customer and tangibles. positioning research and employee research. empathy. tourism (Tan and Pawitra. Abd. Rahim. 1996. Rahim and Ilias (2005) in their study of service quality in higher learning institution stressed that an excellent service quality ensures a yield of highly satisfied and loyal customers (students). 2000). and second to measure perceptions. Rahim. They can be divided into four main areas which are passenger services. Joseph and Joseph. consulting (McLachlin. Cuthbert. is the same applicable in the Malaysian domestic airline industry? Is the Malaysian domestic airline industry being dictated by price sensitivity instead of service quality? With these questions at hand. There are many breakdowns of services in airlines industry. 2001). In 1988. assurance. To explore service quality practices from the view of airline passengers. Ilias and Razli. for the Haj pilgrims. 2005). 2006 Abd. They developed 22-item instruments to measure customer expectations and perceptions (E and P) of the five dimensions of SERVQUAL. True enough that there are significant differences between the two airlines in terms of fleet size. Air Asia claims that its services are not in direct competition but actually a compliment to the service provided by Malaysian Airlines (Business Times. Rahim and Ilias. marketing (Imrie. 2000). (1985) indicated ten components of SERVQUAL. they are more likely to return or to promote to somebody else to those who helped them. while dissatisfied customers are more likely to go elsewhere. responsiveness. The instruments were administered twice in different forms. In his paper “Measuring and Monitoring Service Quality at Malaysia Airlines”’ Abdullah (1995) points out that the approach of service quality study by Malaysian Airlines are in-flight surveys. April 17. Augustyn and Ho. Air Asia does mainly domestic routes with one outbound. Pariseau and McDaniel. engineering services and catering services. 1997). and responsiveness. Oldfield and Baron. Cadogan and McNaughton. This is due to the fact that Air Asia is not capable of providing long haul journey to destinations like Europe like Malaysia Airlines. 2005. first to measure expectations. When customers are satisfied. 2002). the myth of good quality ensures good revenue has been challenged. Rahim et al. . 1998). Time and time again. 1997. 1997). survey audits. Boshoff and Nel. security. the airlines industry was monopolized by Malaysian Airlines until 2001. courtesy. Four or five items were used to measure each dimension. higher education (Abd. Air Asia has proved that it is capable of delivering service by focusing on the basic needs of traveling and this phenomenon gives a new challenge towards on Malaysian Airlines in term of passenger handling context. access. Jan 24. (see Parasuraman et al.SERVQUAL was presented as a multidimensional construct and in their original formulation. when Air Asia decided to introduce no-frills discounted airfares. tangibles. market studies. SERVQUAL were widely used in a variety of study includes public service (Juhary. However. OBJECTIVES The specific aims of this study were as follows: 1. these components were conceptualized into five dimensions. under the radical and aggressive leadership of chief executive officer Tony Fernandes. 2005. we are inspired to use SERVQUAL by Parasuraman et al. reliability. Parasuraman et al. In Malaysia.. and telecommunication industry (Leisen and Vance. Since then. 2001. Bearing these in mind. and Abd. The two are like apple and pears should there be a head-on comparison. communication. hotel (Dean and White. 2002). Airline services are known to be the most elaborate in terms of service. (1988) to do a study of service quality in terms of passenger handling between Malaysia Airlines and Air Asia. 1997. While this is rightly so in the education industry. 2002). 1988). banking (Mels. 2001. Malaysian first budget airline Air Asia Sdn Bhd has return to the black by ranking in some RM1. credibility. hospital (Lam. competence. the question is what is the level of service being provided by Malaysian Airlines? Is there any difference in the most basic of service quality for airlines passenger handling? Abd. complaint and compliment monitoring. baggage or cargo services.
2003) proposed some rules of thumb in determining sample size of which one of it states.7 % did their reservation by phone while the remaining 5. As for the sample size. Therefore. An effective reservation method will have a direct impact on cost reduction strategy thus resulting in a better pricing strategy and Malaysia Airlines should look at that point. In the case of Air Asia. In case of Malaysia Airlines.” Sekaran (2000.8 % of the respondents chose the airline for its pricing. or lack of it. the sampling design will be convenience sampling. 33. Findings resulted from this study should contribute towards understanding the need. For Air Asia.2 % via the internet. Reason for Choosing the Airlines.6 % (Air Asia). We have decided to use convenience sampling in this study as it requires the questionnaire to be answered by passengers that have had experience with Malaysian Airlines. To examine the service quality provided by both Malaysia Airlines and Air Asia from the view of expectations and perceptions. In the case of Air Asia however. To investigate the passenger’s initial decision making criteria in choosing an airline.6 % actually did their reservation via the internet. it can be seen that the majority of 63.2. there has been a lack of study in the areas of service quality in airlines industry.4 %.8 % of the respondents flew the same airline at least once in the same duration. Malaysia Airlines respondents prefer to buy tickets directly from tour agency (69.6 % (Malaysia Airlines) and 71.1 %) prefer to make their reservations through the phone. METHODOLOGY The population frame of this study consists of all airline passengers that have had an experience with Malaysia Airlines and Air Asia. In the case of Air Asia however. “sample size larger than 30 and less than 500 are appropriate for most researchers. In Malaysia. They must have traveled at least once with both airlines in order to ensure the fairness and accuracy of this study. Lastly.7 % did a walk-in.4 %). The majority of Malaysia Airlines’ respondents (64. 35. and the gap scores (P-E) should provide a clue as to whether there are any differences in terms of service quality being provided by both airlines in the eye of the passengers. Roscoe (1975) in Sekaran (2000. . a majority of 89. 3. It is shown that a majority of Malaysia Airlines respondents chose service quality at 42. this question is perhaps the most important question in this survey. Justification of the Study This paper is an attempt to compare the service quality of two airlines on equal grounds towards passengers’ expectations and perceptions. 2003) also added that when qualitative studies are undertaken for exploratory purposes. we have not been able to determine the amount of people that have traveled with both airlines. 30. The questions would based on their expectations (E) and perception (P).7 % did a walk-in and remaining 2. FINDINGS AND DISCUSSIONS The reservation method is to determine passengers’ preferred method of making reservations for the both airlines. We believe that there is significant relation between reservation method and cost reduction strategy. Purpose of trip is to determine the exact reason for traveling and since it is a school holiday week during this survey was conducted. it is expected that most of the respondents were traveling for pleasure 69.6 %) instead of airline office (30. a large majority forms the 92 % that purchase their tickets through Air Asia’s office and a very small 8 % that went through a tour agency. of service quality in Malaysian domestic airline industry. a sample size of 180 is deemed sufficient for this descriptive exploration. It is to explore if the Malaysian domestic passengers are more receptive to service quality or price.9 % flew with the same airlines only once over the last six months. 56.
Secondly.Table 1. There are a few findings in this descriptive exploration.7 1.2 6-10 14 15. both airlines have not met the service quality expectations as perceived by the respondents. These results mean that both airlines have not achieved the desired service quality in the eyes of the respondents. Customers will often criticize poor service performance and not praise exceptional performance.2 11 and more 8 8.3 The service quality results come as a surprise as both service quality of Malaysia Airlines and Air Asia has negative results.9 2-5 37 40.2 Pleasure 64 69.7 Purpose of Trip Business 11 12.1 71.4 Price 10 10. the airline passengers are more receptive to price instead of service quality.6 Personal 15 16.1 89.0 56.3 Reason for Choosing the Airlines Service Quality 39 42.6 21.0 At Random 4 4. the findings in this survey is rather interesting. (1992) in Buttle (1996) stated that from the customer’s perspective.1 5.1 Internet 2 2.7 Location of Ticket Purchase Airline Office 28 30.0 8.2 6. Respondents Initial Decision Making Malaysia Airlines Frequency Percent Questions Method of Making Reservation Phone 59 64.0 Commuting 2 2.6 Same Airlines Frequency Over Six Months 1 33 35.9 Holiday Package 28 30.8 4.3 2. Nonetheless. When it comes to comparing service quality. And lastly.5 2.4 Timing 11 12.2 Walk-In 31 33. the usage of internet has proved to be beneficial for Air Asia and Malaysia Airlines and they should maintained promote their airline booking via internet to better serve its customers. Albeit the negative results shown by both airlines.6 1.7 92. Firstly.7 63.3 Air Frequency 27 56 5 81 7 50 31 6 1 5 1 63 19 1 79 4 2 2 Asia Percent 30.4 Tour Agency 64 69.8 35. Hardie et al.6 5. service quality provided by Malaysia Airlines is deemed to be better than Air Asia.8 1. . since this survey was done during a school holiday. failure to meet expectations often seems a more significant outcome than success in meeting or exceeding expectations.
99 3. Customers may respond by using the scale to predict the performance they would expect. Service Quality Gap Analysis MAS E P Service Quality (P-E) 4. Good on-board services (meals.Good service efficiency of airline personnel Cluster 4.05 4.92 3.78 -0.91 3.32 4.61 3.87 -0.92 15.35 4. i.36 17.80 4.97 3.54 -0.85 -0. . drinks & newspapers) 7. Equitable performance.89 3.94 -0.07 3. The expectations component was designed to measure customers’ normative expectations.68 -0.93 3.1988). (1985. Good airline flight safety & security measures 10. is not contented with the expectation aspect of SERVQUAL instrument and claim to be vague.65 3.20 -0.44 4.51 4. 2001.01 4.48 -0.45 -0. Parasuraman et al.89 3.38 -0.28 -0.26 Air Asia P Service Quality (P-E) 3.59 4.42 4. (1988) defined expectation as “desires or wants of consumers. He claims that respondents could be using any one of the following six interpretations: Service attributes importance.62 CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH According to Gilbert and Wong (2002). Parasuraman et al.90 -0. and is “similar to the ideal standard in the customer satisfaction/ dissatisfaction literature (Zeithaml and Bitner.91 3. understanding what passenger’s expect are essential to providing desired service quality in the airline industry.59 -1.23 4. Forecasted performance.Minimum security related accidents 11.03 3.65 3.36 4. The level of performance customers feel they ought to receive given a perceived set of costs.21 4.12 4. Cleanliness and quietness of aircraft 5.51 1. in the light of their investment.91 3.37 -0.14 4.79 -0.32 -0. Fast and efficient boarding 4.27 -0.90 3.77 15.39 -0. Ideal performance.52 4.35 4.16 3.59 -0.Good handling of luggage loss or damage 13.56 4.Good handling of customer complaints & flight delays 12.49 3.23 4.29 16.94 -0.26 2.Helpful attitudes and courtesy of check-in personnel 14.55 3.49 -0.02 -0.55 4.93 3.83 -0.52 4.00 3.27 -0.80 3. what they feel a service provider should offer rather than would offer’.65 3.75 -1.26 -0.66 3.27 4. Good on-board facilities (seat comfort & spacious) 6. The expectations construct has been viewed as playing key role in consumer evaluation of service quality (Groonroos. Customers may respond by rating the expectation statements according to the important each.85 -0.41 4. Fast and efficient ticket purchase and check-in 3.72 4. feel performance “should be”. Teas (1993) in Gilbert and Wong (2002) however.e.Good attention by stewardesses 15.34 4.32 4.Item Table 2.56 -0.33 E 4.56 3.24 3.62 -0.99 -0.18 4.01 3. Flight punctuality (on-time) 8. 1996). Flight scheduling convenience 9.Good appearance and courtesy of airline personnel 16. Good and easy flight reservation 2.67 4.58 3.62 -0.94 3.29 4.41 -0.35 4.37 -0. The performance level customers.05 -0.25 4.88 4.
and Yeh. (2005). and Curry. Carman (1990) emphasized that another alternative was using single items to compare expectations with perceptions. A paper presented at the 3rd International Seminar on Learning and Motivation. C. S. gender and ethnic background is considered. Dean. Assessing Service Quality In Selected Public Institutions Of Higher Learning In Malaysia. The approach is applicable to all routes between two cities which are served by several airlines. and the survey process and computations required are straightforward and simple. This study also agreed with Carman (1990) proposition that both Expectations and Perceptions measures should be collected directly in terms of the perception-expectation difference during the same administration of the questionnaire. MAS likely to compliment each other. City Bayview Hotel. C. 2002. What performance “must be”. D. SERQUAL: Review. (1999). Juhary Ali. E. and Ilias Said. Chang and Yeh (2002) used an 11-point Likert-scale in their questionnaire to measure service quality of airlines in Taiwan and integrate the usage of fuzzy multi-criteria analysis approach. and Razli Ahmad. there is no quantitative yardstick available. (1998). M. Abd. Managing Service Quality. and Ho. Business Times.A.C. 5 (2). Emerging New Challenges on Service Quality In Higher Learning Institution: The Case of UUM. Research Agenda. Air Asia.K. Managing Service Quality. The Myth and Reality of Students’ Perceptions on Service Quality in a Public University in Malaysia. There should be a correlation and a regression analysis conducted with regards to price against expectation. Rahim Romle. Analysing Service Quality in the Hospitality Industry. (1996). Gilbert. Gilbert and Wong (2002) points out that no two passengers are precisely alike. (1995) Measuring and Monitoring Service quality at Malaysia Airlines. Malaysia.F. Selangor. Demographic factors. 30(1): 8-32. Penang. European Journal of Operational Research. R. Malaysia. Ilias Said. Through the results. REFERENCES Abd. Kedah. Journal of Travel Research. (2001). Cuthbert. Service Quality and Tourism. Abdullah Mat Zaid. Universiti Teknologi Mara Shah Alam. 9 (2): 136-143. Y. Service Improvements in Public Services Using SERVQUAL. P. 66(1): 33-38. and White. In the findings. . J. Rahim Romle. Minimum tolerable performance.J. Brysland. Carman. it does not mean that service quality is of no importance.H. Cuthbert. Managing Service Quality. Managing Service Quality in HE: Is SERVQUAL the Answer?Part 2. A. 11 (6): 389-401. February 13th – 15th 2006. The recommendations suggest that there are a lot more areas to be explored and discovered to further understand service quality in this field with regards to Malaysian perspective. A. Assessing passenger expectations is not a static exercise. (2002). A paper presented at the 3rd International Conference On Measurement and Evaluation in Education. 2002. 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