Service quality and price have traditionally been the backbone of airline strategy in the tourism industry. However, due to the diversity of airline models now offering a variety of service and/or price levels, airlines heed to constantly adapt to their customers‟ requirements whilst also remaining competitive on elements such as price. It has been acknowledged that tourists expect certain levels of service quality which can be largely dependent on the price of the airline service offerings. Whilst considerable research has been conducted into measuring service quality and price important amongst several tourism segments, a growing segment that needs investigation is the international student market. Given that customers of different socio-demographic and cultural backgrounds may relate to service quality and price importance differently, research into this potential heterogeneous market is required.
This study aimed to ascertain the service quality expectations and ratings of the importance of price of international students currently studying in Australia. Socio-demographic differences amongst these students were also investigated. An on-site, self-administered questionnaire survey was developed and data was collected from 563 international students that are enrolled at the University of Queensland. Exploratory factor analysis, independent group-tests, one-way ANOVA and linear regression were employed. The research produced three major findings. First, five service quality expectation factors were determined: (i) Core Service; (ii) Ancillary Service; (iii) Employee Service; (iv) Cabin Facility; and (v) Service Indicators. Second, it was also concluded that international students rated service quality differently based on their age, gender, country of origin and employment status. Third, whilst minimal, price importance predicted the service quality expectations of international students except for ancillary services.
Contributions to theory and practice were identified. From a theoretical perspective, this study determined that international students require a reliable basic service that includes a safe, on-time service with amble baggage that takes them to their destination. It also confirmed that price is important in predicting service quality expectations. Further, international students also rate service quality differently based on their personal characteristics. Airlines, Destination Marketing Organisations (DMOs) and universities can also utilise these findings for planning purposes. For example, airlines should provision a substantial amount of baggage allowance at a reasonable price to meet the requirements of the market. Travel agencies and DMOs could also use these service quality expectation factors, price importance ratings and socio-demographic differences to promote and tailor customised travel deals targeting international students planning to holiday. Limitations and opportunities for future research are also outlined. Whilst research has been conducted at the University of Queensland, there is the opportunity for research at a different country to validate if expectations amongst students are similar across the board. It can also potentially capture data from a wider range of demographics.