Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Aviation Sciences



First Advisor

John Deaton

Second Advisor

Deborah Carstens

Third Advisor

Brooke Wheeler


The purpose of the study was to observe passengers’ perceptions about brand experience research in the airline industry by applying a transcendental or descriptive phenomenological methodology designed to evaluate interview transcriptions and organize derived knowledge into defined themes. The NVivo program was utilized to analyze data from textual transcriptions. The experiences of passengers of the Big Three United States legacy carriers, including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines, were described. The participants comprised three couples and seven individuals, all frequent-flyer members of the Big Three carriers and their partnering global airline alliances. The researcher-constructed instrument was used for in-depth interviews and data collection while the qualitative rigors ensured trustworthiness. The findings are purposeful guides for airline managers to help identify customer preferences and maintain lasting relationships. In legacy carriers, long known as full-service airlines, customer expectations are higher than for those in newer business models like the low-cost and ultra-low-cost carriers. Three significant findings were related to airline brand experiences (ABEs), loyal members, and customer retention behavior. First, ABE concepts play a decisive role in implementing excellent airline service based on customers’ perceptions. Positive attributes of brand images transfer into brand loyalty, and in turn, improve business performance; in contrast, poor communication negatively impacts passengers during adverse customer service matters. Successful problem-solving, vital for management in attaining trust and in helping customers overlook mishandlings, leads to satisfied customers. Second, member benefits of Frequent-Flyer Programs, which are commitments between providers and members, motivate repeated passengers; hence, in the passengers’ views, rewards must be worth the efforts to continue being loyal. Last, convenient locations or hubs, reward programs, airline reputations, customer expectations, and customer relations are critical concepts established to develop and retain buying behaviors, also known as customer retention in the current study.


Copyright held by author.

Included in

Aviation Commons