A Shrinking World: How Developments of the Airline Industry Impact People’s Perception of Distance
Abstract: The world as we know it today has evolved to be a very connected space, where not only ICT’s (information & communication technologies) have made it easy to interact with individuals around the globe at any time, but also developments in air travel allow to reach ever more distant destinations. Many go as far as describing the world as shrinking or small; it seems that at least it feels smaller than it used to. Most recently, the evolution of low cost carriers, that are today the market leaders especially throughout the Western World, has brought some time and cost advantages, once again revolutionising modern travel behaviour. Throughout the past decades, research has also identified the phenomenon of cognitive distance explaining how individuals grasp physical distance subjectively based on factors such as time, cost, accessibility, familiarity and culture. Such studies evolve around mobility patterns mostly in urban environments, but lack to examine how distance is perceived in the context of international air travel. The present study sets out to test the mentioned subjective attributes identified throughout the theory in the context of air travel in Europe and also add the layer of low cost travel that has evidently had a large impact on the attributes of time, cost and accessibility directly and indirectly also on the other two. To address these research gaps, a quantitative survey study was designed, as a relationship between the two variables of LCC (low cost carrier) developments and cognitive distance were to be examined. Two short qualitative interviews were used in advance to help design the questionnaire to be rolled out mostly through non-random sampling online. The results were analysed using SPSS (statistical package for the social sciences) and its various tools for descriptive and inferential statistics analysis. It was found that the described attributes make for a subjective perception of distance parameters also in the context of air travel and that LCC’s have a large impact today on the cognition of distance, making destinations easier, quicker and less expensive to reach and therefore appear closer. As the study is limited by the employed methods as well as the hypotheses tested based on the examined theoretical framework, the author suggests further research in the field to identify more factors, as well as how exactly they interrelate and are influenced by developments in the airline industry.
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