Leisure Travel: Implications for Airline Alliances
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The rationale behind the formation of airline alliances includes the reaping of scale and scope economies and the acquisition of marketing and branding advantages. To really add value to the airline customer, however, alliances should consider the purpose of travel, i.e. they should appreciate and understand the derived nature of the airline product. The relevant literature seems to understate this issue or at best focus on business passengers. Given the rising importance of leisure travel and tourism in the world economy, its implications should be explicitly assessed. The emergence of low cost carriers and the subsequent simplifications in the holiday packages offered by charter airlines have played a major role in boosting leisure travel in Europe at least. Still, the intelligent management of frequent flyer programmes and the creation of a seamless network in long haul (or even intercontinental) air travel may induce leisure passengers to opt for an allied airline instead. This paper addresses the topic by undertaking primary research in the form of semi-structured interviews with airline executives and structured questionnaires addressed to passengers. The interviewees are supportive of the view that alliances of network carriers may offer benefits to leisure passengers although they do recognise the competitive threat posed by low cost carriers. Similarly, the statistical analysis of the questionnaire results reveals that frequent flyers and more affluent respondents are more knowledgeable about strategic alliances and have a tendency to prefer allied carriers for long-haul but not for short-haul flights. This outcome may add to the understanding of airline alliances and consumer behaviour and have important implications for airline strategy at a global level.
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