1.1. BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Globally, the airline industry is one of the more intangible industries dealing principally with the provision of services contributing over $12.9 billion in 2006 (Adeola & Adebiyi, 2014). Being global in nature, the recent world economic downturn of 2008 and 2009 period has had a tremendous blow on the industry (Johan, Noor, Bahar, Yan, & Ping, 2014).The airline industry is considered one of the commanding heights of global economy, aiding globalization by facilitating the rate of international economic exchanges among nations (Johan, et al, 2014). The economic circumstance in which the airline industry finds itself has impacted not only on the revenues for the airlines but also on competition for customers. In Nigeria, the airline industry is one of the major pillars of the economy, as just between 8.3 million passengers and over 181,000 tons of freight were transported domestically (Adeola & Adebiyi, 2014).
Customer value in respect of airlines may be considered as the extent to which the passenger receives value for money after the performance of the service. This means that the passenger received quality service at a reasonable or low price, the desired service expectation was achieved and the service received was top class and commensurate with the price paid. The motivation for air passengers to switch loyalty and patronage to competitors is the desire for service excellence and attainment of customer value (Archana & Subha 2012). Despite the intricacies involved in meeting customers' expectations, airlines should endeavour to satisfy such expectations, because their competiveness and sustainability thrive on passenger satisfaction and customer value or value for money received. Patronage is a situation where an individual displays a conscious effort in choosing products and services that will satisfy his or her need (s) through the process of analyzing situations that he thinks would be rewarding and relatively satisfying amidst some challenges faced in the course of fulfilling his own desires. This explains why individuals can exhibit unconditional attachment and affection towards objects or persons (Adiele & Grend, 2016).
In Nigeria, patronage can be viewed or classified from two dimensions: conditional and unconditional patronage. Unconditional patronage is mostly associated with expectations which are not tied to reward for financial exchanges such as preference for issues that are affectively and psychologically oriented, particularly that gives them joy and satisfaction. The conditional patronage is common to goods and services that an individual purposefully or consciously maximizes to address his economic needs. When the expectations are less than the benefits received, quantitatively, the extent of patronage can fluctuate and will thus depend on the alternatives available (Adiele & Grend, 2016). Previous research in the Nigerian aviation sector has shown that airline patronage is heavily dependent on some factors which include fare and flight frequency, convenience, non-stop flight, reliability, easy accessibility to airports by passengers , service quality, perceived airfare fairness, flight availability, passenger disposition towards airline image (Jim- woo park, Rodger and Cheng, 2009; Hart & Rosenbergewill (2009). Analysis of the above identified predictors of airline patronage suggests that they can exert direct or indirect influences. This further depicts interplay of complex variables that determines the airline choice decisions in a given economy.
According to Nigerian Airport Authority (FMA, 2012), from visiting family and friends to shipping high value products, 8.3 million passengers and 181,000 tonnes of freight travelled to, from and within Nigeria; domestically, more than 66,800 flights make over 75 million seats available to passengers, destined to 18 airports as at years 2011 and 2012. The Nigerian aviation sector is one of the highest revenue earners for the country owing to its enormous opportunities. Nigeria, the most populous African nation is endowed with natural, human, material and financial resources which made the country a favorable destination for other nations of the world. This notwithstanding, the Nigerian aviation sector is faced with numerous problems which may have affected the level of patronage observed by Nigerian domestic airline service providers.
Despite all these researches that have been carried out on airline patronage, majority ignored the aspect of customer perceive value (CPV) as a precipitating factor for continual patronage and customer retention. The purpose of this research is to examining the relationship between costumer perceived value and the patronage of airline in Port Harcourt city. To better understand the concept of customer perceived value and patronage of airline, a conceptual review of the two main concepts will be delineated.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Service quality in airline industry is relatively more challenging to measure than
in other service industries (i.e. financial sector), in which system and work processes consist of distinct but inter-related tasks [Ghazal, Suchita, 2014]. According to Chang and Keller , airline services are executed concurrently and their delivery involves many entities (such as airport authorities), and a host of other third parties (e.g. caterer,security operatives and aviation services providers, etc.). Accordingly, a unified effort is required to coordinate the multiplicities of processes needed to deliver superior service quality in the airline industry (Chang, Keller, 2002).
A review of literature about perceived service marketing reveals that the direction of causality and relationships among service quality, customer satisfaction and loyalty is an important, unresolved subject matter characterized by inconsistencies and controversies. For instance,Oliver (1993) and Auh and Johnson (2005), have viewed service quality and customer satisfaction as complementary or divergent constructs. Other researchers further established the causal reciprocity of service quality and customer satisfaction, which creates further confusion (Salazar, Paulo, 2004; Wang, Chich-Jen, 2006). Similarly, the claim that customer satisfaction leads to loyalty appears even less convincing (Egan, 2004; Pritchard, Silvestro,2005). Although a number of researchers have examined the relationship among perceived value, service quality, customer satisfaction and loyalty in the airline industry internationally(Faheed, 1998; Saha, Theingi, 2009), to the best of the author’s knowledge no study has yet investigated these relationships in the Nigerian airline industry. Similarly, a large number of existing studies have mainly been inspired by the SERVQUAL framework to analyse customer perceptions of service quality, which has been found to be inadequate in the airline context; hence, the growing debate to enhance its robustness (Gilbert, Wong, 2003;
Jin-Woo, Rodger, Cheng-Lung, 2005; Pakdil, Aydin, 2007). Surprisingly, in the few works concerning the Nigerian airline industry (Ckiwendu, Ejem, Ezenwa, 2012; Geraldine, Chikwendu, 2013; Olaniyi, Onwuka,Agu, 2014), the researchers paid scant attention to the SERVQUAL model. More importantly, most of these studies used firm as against industry level analysis in their studies.Considering this focus and the expected faster growth rate of air transportation in developing countries [Netjasov, Janic, 2008; Japan Aviation and Development Company-JADC, 2012], it appears that the sector has been given relatively less research attention than it merits.This study seeks to partially address the gap in customer patronage by investigating the interrelationships among service quality, customer satisfaction and loyalty in the Port Harcourt airlines industry. This study focuses on the following specific objectives: investigating the relationship between customer perceived value and patronage in PORT Harcourt airline industry, investigating the influence of passenger satisfaction on customer loyalty in the Port Harcourt airline industry, and determining if passenger satisfaction could mediate the relationship between perceived service quality and customer loyalty in the PORT Harcourt airline industry.
1.3 Conceptual Framework
1.4 Aim and Objectives of the Study
The major aim of this study is to empirically investigate the relationship between customer perceived value and patronage of airlines. Other specific objectives of the study are to:
1. Investigate the perception of passengers about flight availability.
2. Investigate challenges influencing the patronage of airlines in Nigeria.
3. Investigate the impact of perceived value on customer satisfaction in Nigeria Aviation Industry.
4. Investigate factors influencing passengers’ satisfaction in the aviation business.
5. Investigate the relationship between customers’ perceived value and patronage of airlines in Nigeria.
6. Investigate the challenges facing the aviation sector in Nigeria.
1.5 Research Questions
1. How is the perception of passengers about flight availability?
2. What are challenges influencing the patronage of airlines in Nigeria?
3. What are the impacts of perceived value on customer satisfaction in Nigeria Aviation Industry?
4. What are the factors influencing passenger’s satisfaction in the aviation business
5. What is the relationship between customers perceived value and patronage of airlines in Nigeria?
6. What are the challenges facing the aviation sector in Nigeria?
1.6 Research Hypotheses
H01: There is no significant relationship of perceived value on customer satisfaction in Nigeria Aviation Industry
H02: There is no significant relationship between customers’ perceived value and patronage of airlines in Nigeria.
H03: Customer perceived value will be positively influenced by customer patronage.
H04: The higher the level of switching costs, the greater is the likelihood that customer perceived value will lead to greater customer patronage.
H05: The higher the level of switching costs, the greater is the likelihood that perceived value will lead to greater customer loyalty.
H06: Customer loyalty will be positively influenced by customer perceived value.
1.7 Significance of the Study
Policymakers: The research information will provide knowledge to the policymakers and regulators of aviation industry sector to design new strategies and policies for enhanced services in the aviation industry sector.
Company/firms: The findings will provide insights to managers in aviation industry to better understand the different dimensions of services quality and how they influence customer’s satisfaction which is important in attracting and retaining their customers.
Customers: This study will be important for researchers and students being that there are limited studies on determinants of passenger’s satisfaction in the aviation sector in Rivers state. The results of this study will be beneficial locally for future research.
1.8 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
The study is based on customer perceived value and patronage of airlines in Port Harcourt, Rivers state.The geographical scope of the study was limited to Airlines in Port Harcourt. There are five major Airlines in Port Harcourt 4 domestic (Arik Air Nigeria Limited, Dana Airs Ltd, Air Peace and Fly Aero Nigeria Ltd) 1 international Airline (Lufthansa German Airlines) which are all located in the Port Harcourt international Airport, Omagwa Port Harcourt, Rivers State , and the study captured data from all these aforementioned Airlines for this study as it has been identified as one of the Airlines in the country experiencing rapid and steady growth with regards to certain prime financial factors or indicators. The objects of study include customers and clients of the five Airlines in the metropolis in order to understand the relationship among the variables of the study.
1.9 Limitations 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.
1.10 Definition of Terms
Perceived Value: It can be conceptualized as the outcome of the customer’s trade off or exchange between quality discernment and the monetary and non-fiscal sacrifices (Zins, 2010).
Patronage: Patronage is burn out of a desire to be committed to an organization either based on its service quality or perceived service qualities.
Patronage could be defined as a passenger’s selection of an airline from a set of alternatives.
Satisfaction: It refers to the ability of a firm (in this case airline company) to provide its customers (or passengers) with the benefits that surpass their expectations in so doing give them a perception that some value has been added (Lucchesi, et al, 2015).
Service Quality: Service quality has been defined as the consumer’s or customers overall impression or evaluation of the efficiency of an organization or a firm’s services (Namukasa, 2013).
Customer Expectation: Customer expectations is defined as beliefs about service delivery that serve as standards for the judgment of the actual service delivered to the customer (Zeithaml, Bitner & Gremler, 2009; Hill, 2000; Buttle, 2004; and Pizam, 2010).
Loyalty: Customer loyalty refers to a situation where a customer develops a long standing preference towards a particular product, service or a brand.
Corporate Image: According to Zins (2010), corporate image is the underpinning customer’s emotional stereotypes or labels associated with an airline corporation.
1.11 Organizations of the Study
The research work is segmented in five chapters. Chapter one introduced the research work, the background, the central research questions, Operational definition of terms and organization of the research work
Chapter Two reviews the related literature relating to the work involving conceptual analysis of independent variables, dependent variables and observes the relationship between the independent and dependent variables
Chapter Three deals with the methodology adopted fort the research work, this ranges from design, population, sample procedures/sample size determination down to data analysis techniques and Summary.
Chapter four of the work deals with data presentation, analysis and discussion of findings, this is shown in the questionnaire administered and response rate required univariable and bivariable analysis and discussion of findings. Chapter five deals with summary of findings, conclusion and recommendation. The study is backed up with references, appendices and tables for clarity or better understanding. The study or research work is typed is typed at a double line spacing size of times new roman type face.
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