Rahman, Md. S 2011, 'Differentiation of services to achieve competitive advantage: airlines meeting the needs of the physically challenged persons', DBA thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.
Copyright Md. S Rahman 2011
Product differentiation is a competitive business strategy whereby firms attempt to gain a competitive advantage. Airlines have employed several differentiation strategies to gain a competitive advantage over other airlines in order to better position their products. People with disabilities, together with careers, constitute a large potential consumer market segment for the tourism and hospitality industry. Disability affects 15─20% of every country’s population. The growing market of physically challenged persons can be a source of competitive advantage for the airlines if they differentiate their products and services by fulfilling the needs of physically challenged persons. The literature review gave clear focus to the relevance of the research problem and underlined the gaps in the body of knowledge. Accordingly, the research problem formulated for this research was “How can airlines differentiate their services and achieve competitive advantage by fulfilling the needs of physically challenged persons?”
The interpretivist orientation of qualitative research methods with case studies has guided this research; the aim being to investigate the research problem and research questions leading to research propositions. The aim of this thesis is to enhance understanding of the issue of how airlines can differentiate their services and achieve competitive advantage by fulfilling the needs of physically challenged individuals and also to develop a model rather than test theory.
The unit of analysis was international airlines (single unit of analysis). Four major airlines were chosen as cases and in-depth interviews were carried out among 15 persons at different hierarchical management levels (3 to 5 from each airline depending on the participants’ availability). Purposeful and convenience methods of sampling were used as the sampling strategy. Access to the sample group was based on the researcher’s personal contacts.
Airlines were chosen from the different Asian regions for maximum representation. Data were collected from the in-depth interviews, and both within-case and cross-case analysis were selected. All the information obtained from the cross-case analysis were later analysed and triangulated. Concept mapping technique was used in pattern matching and for replication to achieve external validity in multiple case studies.
This research has had a number of findings. The main contribution of this research to enhance knowledge and understand product differentiation as a competitive advantage particularly in the context of the physically challenged persons. The growing market of physically challenged persons might be a source of competitive advantage for airlines that differentiate their products and services to fulfil those needs.
This research provides useful information to policy makers in terms of the needs of physically challenged persons, barriers to implement product differentiation, measures to be taken for product differentiation and achieve competitive advantage, the challenges physically challenged persons face when travelling by air, and the preconditions for product differentiation in the market.
A major contribution of the present study is the derivation of a theoretical model of airlines differentiation for physically challenged persons. This model not only identifies the needs of the physically challenged persons but also proposes guidelines for government policy makers in formulating policy to create awareness on the rights, barrier-free travel and improve infrastructure to cater the market segment of physically challenged persons.