The human element in airline service quality: contact personnel and the customer Academic Article uri icon


  • Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to examine empirically the dimension of personal touch and its elements of individual attention, helpfulness, courtesy, and promptness as determinants of customer satisfaction for passenger airlines. Design/methodology/approach - Survey data from 437 individuals and a hierarchical approach to structural equation modeling are used to systematically evaluate four alternative measurement models. A second-order measurement model of personal touch appeared to represent the data very well and can be supported from a theoretical point of view. Findings - Personal touch is found to statistically and substantively affect passenger satisfaction explaining about 54 percent of the variance. In other words, collectively, individual attention, helpfulness, courtesy, and promptness are found to have a significant effect on airline passenger satisfaction. Research limitations/implications - This research examines the satisfaction of customers of US passenger airlines. Future research should overcome this limitation by extending the survey to include experiences on international flights and with non-US airlines. The results are biased more towards the responses of "younger" passengers and those who flew primarily in the economy level of service. Practical implications - The findings of this research have important strategic and managerial implications for passenger airlines and serve to validate the corporate culture and customer service quality driven models of exemplary airlines such Southwest Airlines, JetBlue Airways, and Scandinavian Air Systems. Originality/value - The paper provides a very thorough review of the literature and is the first to examine empirically the affect of personal touch displayed by contact employees on the satisfaction of customers of passenger airlines. Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

published proceedings

  • International Journal of Operations & Production Management

author list (cited authors)

  • Babbar, S., & Koufteros, X.

citation count

  • 68

complete list of authors

  • Babbar, Sunil||Koufteros, Xenophon

publication date

  • August 2008