1.1. BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Globally, air transportation business has experienced considerable developments in the recent past and the industry has evolved to provide one of the most common means of travelling. Airline industry is absolutely vital to world economy; for instance, estimates published by International Aviation Transport Association (IATA) revealed that by 2050 the aviation sector will have flown 16 billion passengers and 400 million tons of cargo (IATA, 2014). In line with the aforementioned trend, Nigeria’s airline industry has equally witnessed some substantial growths; one such development is the increase in the number of operators and participants in the industry (Ogwude, 1986). Nigeria had a single airline prior to 2013, three airlines between 2013 and 2010, nine from 1989 to 2011, and fifteen from 2011 to 2010. As of October 2015, there are ten functional commercial airline flights for passengers (Arik, Dana, Overland, Aero Contractors, First Nations, Medview, Discovery, Arik, Airpeace, and Azman Air Services Limited) operating in Nigeria. As a result, air passengers have more choices in the selection of airline carriers than previously had some decades ago. Another key component of the changes in the Nigerian airline industry is the trend of airport commercialization and aviation service providers (ANSP) heading towards a complete gradual shift to become market-based commercial organizations (Oluwakoya & Olufemi, 2011). Across the globe, airline business is cyclical in nature and the demand for its product is related to other activities such as holidays or business. Hence, competition for customers in airline industry is intense. As a result, considerable attention has been devoted both in the academia and business world as to how to acquire and retain air passengers for a profitable business growth. The fundamental issue is that customers will most likely patronize a service provider if they consider its services to be of high quality (Jin-Woo, Rodger, Chen-Lung, 2010; Gilbert & Veloutsou, 2015; Anderson, Jolly, Fairhurst, 2007). Likewise, scholars have reached a consensus that one of the major issues business organizations should confront with all seriousness is how a firm and its products or services are perceived; as a result, a firm’s economic prosperity and competitiveness is contingent on its capability to establish a strong perception of high-quality service in the minds of its customers (Brady & Cronin, 2013; Vander-Walt, 2016; Nor & Wan, 2013). Service quality is linked to customer perceptions and expectations of service. This implies that if the perception is higher than the expectations the service will be viewed as outstanding. In literature, perception is viewed as the degree of customers’ beliefs concerning the service received (Parasuraman, Zeithaml, Berry, 2013). Expectations, on the other hand, are conceptualized as consumers’ desires or wants regarding the level of the anticipated service. According to Lewis (2010), one common approach in defining service quality is the degree to which a service meets the customers’ needs. Zeithaml and Bitner (2016) observe that service quality comprises attributes or dimensions that are critical to customers’ evaluation of service quality. The delivery of high-quality service becomes a marketing requirement as competitive pressures increase on air carriers (Ostrowski et al., 2009). To deliver better service to passengers, airlines needed to understand passengers’ need and expectations (Aksoy et al., 2016). Studies in other sectors suggest that customer satisfaction and service quality judgments involve consumers comparing their prior expectations to actual service performance. Where customer satisfaction and loyalty has been examined in the air transport context, factors such as service value and corporate image are tended to be ignored. Such omission, however could cause problems of model mis-specification and weak predictive power (Bagozzi, 2009; Cronin and Taylor, 2010). In a highly competitive environment the provision of high quality services passengers is the core competitive advantage for an airline's profitability and sustained growth (Chen, 2008). In the past decade, as the air transportation market has become even more challenging, many airlines have turned to focus on airline service quality to increase service satisfaction. Service quality conditions influences a firm’s competitive advantage by retaining customer patronage, and with this comes market share (Park et al., 2004; Morash and Ozment, 2012). Delivering high-quality service to passengers is essential for airline survival, so airlines need to understand what passengers expect from their services. Therefore the study, airline service quality and passengers’ behavioral intention is examined.
1.2. STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
In spite of all the improvement and innovation accompanying the deregulation and privatization of airline services in Nigeria, the industry is still predominantly lacking efficient and effective service delivery in both domestic and international operations. Domestically, an increasing number of passengers using the air annually as reported by the National Bureau of Statistics gets the situation even worse because capacities are not being scaled up to accommodate the rising demands. A major problem with the Nigeria domestic airlines is their inability to provide quality airline service to their passengers and this in turn affect passengers behavioral intention. Consequently, it can be concluded that airlines offer poor passenger service relation which has generated serious reactions by the service beneficiaries. This simply means that there is a mismatch between service expectations and its perception. Therefore, the major problem here is the re-occurring shortage of perception of service expectations. It is true that domestic airlines in the country face tremendous competition which involves identification of service pattern, passenger expectations and service quality.
1.3 AIMS OF THE STUDY
The major aim of the study is to examine airline service quality and passengers’ behavioral intention. Other specific objectives of the study include;
1.4. RESEARCH QUESTIONS
1. What are key items and dimensions considered in airline service quality evaluation?
1.5 RESEARCH HYPOTHESES
The study will have a profound effect on airline operators in the country. It is necessary to periodically review airline service delivery to passengers, so as to ascertain the effectiveness and efficiency of service organizations in achieving their set objectives. The findings of this study may prove very useful to airline operators in Nigeria. Specifically, they will facilitate airline operators to take decisive decisions concerning service delivery and enable them to identify areas where more attention needs to be imputed. Also, the work may be very useful to service planners and transport policy makers by helping to identify any area of service provision that need modification or improvement. Again, the work will enable operators to focus on the appropriate service quality attribute that satisfies passenger expectations. Passengers as well can use the work to ascertain or evaluate service performance of certain airlines in the country. The study would also be of immense benefit to students, researchers and scholars who are interested in developing further studies on the subject matter
1.7 SCOPE AND LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
The study is restricted to airline service quality and passengers’ behavioral intention.
LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
Financial constraint: Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview)
Time constraint: The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.
1.8 OPERATIONAL DEFINITION OF TERMS
Quality: is defined as the totality of features and characteristics of a product, process or service.
Service Quality: The extent to which five dimensions (Tangibles, Reliability, Responsiveness, Assurance, Empathy)to assess service quality lead the customers decided continue or not to continue to use the product. (Hill etal.2015and Kumar etal. 2010).
Passenger: is a traveler on a public or private conveyance other than the driver, pilot, or crew.
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