The next generation of commercial supersonic flight : understanding the industry and the consumer perspectives

University essay from Högskolan i Jönköping/IHH, Företagsekonomi; Högskolan i Jönköping/IHH, Företagsekonomi

Abstract: For decades, the speed of commercial aviation was constrained by the sound barrier. However, recent noticeable growth in air traffic and the recognition of the “time” as a valuable asset for passengers, call for more efficient, faster commercial transport. The commercial supersonic flight, able to fly above the speed of the sound has not been around ever since Concorde made its last trip in 2003, but it is promised to be on its way back. Currently, several existing and emerging companies are competing to revive the concept by developing and launching efficient supersonic plane between 2020-2025. The aircraft could operate on long-haul intercontinental flights about 2.6 times faster than current subsonic airplanes, targeting primarily business travelers. However, such a technological leapfrogging innovation embodies several engineering, economic, environmental and other factors, vital for its commercial success.                                The overall purpose of this master thesis is to investigate which factors could ensure the success of the upcoming supersonic commercial flight. The research will examine whether the new generation of supersonic planes can achieve maintainable commercial success by introducing industry expert opinions and exploring the perceptions of potential passengers towards supersonic flight as a possible future transportation mode.                               The limited literature on the subject created the need for descriptive research to expand the understanding. The chosen deductive approach relies on adopting the theoretical conceptions on the Theory of Disruptive Innovation and the Extended GAP Model of Service Quality. Pragmatic research philosophy is used due to the fact that it was deemed necessary to pursue multiple views to enable best answering the research questions. Qualitative interviews with ten industry experts have been conducted, capturing both the market specifications and the technical functions of the planes. Furthermore, 28 potential consumers who have flown in a business class on a long-haul flight gave valuable insights on the service quality perceptions.                                The results show that demand for supersonic flight exists and people are willing to use it as long as the plane satisfies their expectations of service quality. Based on the predictions of industry experts and the high level of curiosity of the potential customers interviewed, and their positive perceptions towards using it, the commercial  supersonic flight has the scale possibility to be highly successful. However, the upcoming supersonic aircraft should find a balance between the main service quality attributes, such as speed, comfort, convenience, and safety, in relation to the economic, environmental, and engineering challenges.

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