The Gulf Air, Ṭayarān al-Khalīj, is an airline found and operating in the Kingdom of Bahrain. It is the most successful and popular airline in the country. The headquarters of the Gulf Air Company is located in Muharraq. The choice of this location is a strategic move by the Gulf Air Company since it is situated just next to the Bahrain International Airport. This fact has made the Airport the main base for the Gulf Air and has facilitated business operations of the Corporation. As an international airline, the Gulf Air flies to more than 36 destinations worldwide including 20 countries in Asia, Africa, and Europe. Each of the numerous destinations has its own type of consumers offering public transportation of the first class, business class, and economy class. The company also has an option of the chartered or private air service for its consumers (Gulf Air, 2013). Gulf Air, as a business, is faced with various challenges that call for the Airline to consider in promoting its attainment of many customers, and thus its business objectives in general.
Statement of the Problem
The Airline has faced a series of challenges including stiff competition from Emirates Airline and Oman Air, and a number of incidents and accidents. Abu Dhabi and Oman pulled out the Gulf Air in order to establish their own airlines due to the significant decrease in the number and quality of services provided by the Gulf Air in the United Arab Emirates. This fact presented a new challenge to the airline transport business. The initial partners went ahead separately to found a new airline that present more competition to the Gulf Air. Consequently, the consumers got diverse options to choose an air transport (Oxford Business Group, 2008).
The new players in the business also caused a challenge for employees. When the company started laying-off its workers because of saving on expenses, some workers resigned from their positions. Some workers took the chance to be employed in the new established airlines. The situation presented a lot of challenges to the company in terms of workforce. The company had to rely on signing the performance contracts with the employees rather than working backlogs. The business also faced serious financial challenges when the partners left. Moreover, the financial constraints caused by the cheap airlines limited the targeted expansion of the business. The consumers in the air sector preferred other cheap airlines, which offered the same services, but at reasonable prices. The number of accidents in the airline caused another threat to the business (Summers, 2007).
In its history, the company experienced the two major aircraft issues that resulted in negative publicity. The bombing and the pilot error accidents raised questions on the safety of the consumers while using the airline. Most consumers demanded additional reassurance on their safety while traveling, and such tragic events disturbed the confidence. The advertising sector of the airline also experienced the challenges in terms of the customer relations. The company strives to satisfy numerous consumers with different needs. The approach chosen for each customer is unique. The generalization of the customers’ needs has added to the negative feedback the company faced from its operations.
Each consumer has to be treated according to his or her expectations. The rate of expansion required by the company to win the new markets all over the world is another problem the company is facing today. The global market has a demand for an increased air transportation to ease the mode of traveling from one destination to the other. The airline needs to exploit such increased global transportation in order to market its services and products successfully. However, the Gulf Air has managed to preserve its face and market share in the airline industry; it has been developing steadily and effectively for the past decades. The growth can be attributed to different management changes that the company has adopted over the recent years. The company has tried to implement campaigns and proper consumer packages to maintain the current customers and attract the new ones.
Analysis of the Issues
The challenges facing the airline today have developed out of several calamities experienced by the company in the course of running its business. When the major managing partners in the company, Abu Dhabi and Oman, left the business, the company experienced a considerable backlash in its operations. The airline experienced both financial and business reputation challenges. The two partners caused customer hostility to the business. The financial muscles the company had before the fallout had also vanished away. The company was forced to come up with the other strategies that would revive its operations. The pulling out also meant that the consumers of the two players also disappeared. Moreover, other clients also preferred different other airlines to Gulf Air (Sambidge, 2012). The challenges caused losses to the company and major cuts of the employees. The emergence of some competing airlines presented one more challenge. The ex-partners that competed with the company invented brand-new services for luxurious consumers. Consequently, the clients in the air sector preferred the competing airlines and forced the business to come up with other customer packages to retain them (Oxford Business Group, 2008).
The presence of other companies in the business provided the new market with more air services. The consumers also were willing to test new services in the transportation system that challenged the Gulf Airline. The demand for the services provided by the company also was influenced by the past accident issues. The bombing and crushing events became their major drawbacks. Consumers prefer services, in this case air transportation, in the safety of which they are sure. The bombing exposed the airline to the security threats that caused the clients to avoid using its services. The threat became a source of the bad publicity for the company at both the local and international market. The consumers would prefer the services of a competing business company, which had zero chances of the security threat issues. In any service, consumers would always prefer an economy class that is safe to a first class that threats the life. Managerial shortfalls that allowed for the pilot errors also attributed to the challenges of the company. The recent crashes had scared away the existing and potential customers. The clients of the company have preferred other modes of transportation or services offered by other airlines. The lack of communication between the management team and the workers has led to personnel cuts of the employees with experience. Consequently, the minimal contractual workers could not serve the need of the consumers in the existing market (North & Tripp, 2008).
Consumer Buying Process and Influencing Factors
For every purchase of an air ticket from the Gulf Air Company, a customer has to pass a number of stages that will guide him/her to purchasing or refusing to purchase the air tickets.
The process begins at the problem recognition stage. At this stage, the customers understand that they require the services of the Gulf Air. A potential client may need to fly or send a cargo by air. This stage clarifies that there can be some dissimilarity between the expectations of an individual and real circumstances. However, the need to use a service is may be enough to initiate a decision.
Second stage includes the search for information. At this stage, the consumer gets to know the service price and may study the experience of other clients. External search comprises the sources other than the customers themselves including their relatives and friends. They may also use the public and marketer-dominated sources such as the consumer reports, advertisements, and official website of the company (Wirtz & Nikolai, 2003).
The third stage is the evaluation of alternatives. At this stage, the customer assesses the value of the information obtained from the search. It suggests the criterions to be used in purchasing a ticket and offers the brand names that could meet the selected criterions. The value perspective of the customer is developed on the basis of prestige, ethics, speed, safety, together with price (North & Tripp, 2008).
The fourth stage is the purchase decision, at which the customers considers their value perspective. Therefore, the customer ends up buying value. At this stage, the client considers from whom, when, and whether to purchase the ticket or not. The decision depends on the terms of sale, return policy, personal experience, weather, or time pressure issues.
Finally, there is the post-purchase stage, at which the customers compare the gained experience with their initial expectations. They consider whether they have been satisfied or not. At this stage, the companies employ their salespersons and advertisements in order to convince consumers that the decision made was the right one (North & Tripp, 2008).
In making a decision of which airline to choose, the customers are influenced by various factors. These factors include the reputation of the airline, trust, and satisfaction
The customers trust the Gulf Air. The e-trust plays the major role in influencing the customers’ decisions to finish the transaction with purchasing the products online. Today, most air tickets are purchased online. The trust issues also include the confidence of the customer in that the airline will perform its obligations and will not take advantage of the privately shared information.
The price being also charged affects the customers in their decisions of purchasing an airline ticket from the company. The Gulf Air perfectly knows that, if a customer believes that a particular airline charges too much for the air ticket and that they will not get the real value of their money, they may not purchase a ticket from that particular airline. They will look for a company, the quality of which is adequate to the money spent. In order to make a decision on whether to use the same airline when they plan to travel again, the Khaliji passengers usually follow their experience of using that airline.
The reputation of the Khaliji Airline is an extremely critical factor that influences the customers in their ticket purchasing decision. Unlike other issues, reputation has fewer visible signals of credibility and major dangers in a practical environment (Wirtz & Nikolai, 2003). The reputation includes the feedback from the customer regarding the Khaliji Airline’s public image and the company’s dedication to customer satisfaction. The clients may think twice before purchasing an air ticket from an airline that is commonly involved in numerous plane accidents. Even if the human and mechanical causes of the accidents were objective, people would still have doubts concerning traveling with such airlines (Summers, 2007).
Satisfaction also influences the decisions of buying the ticket from Khaliji Airlines. The Airline’s booking process is user-friendly. It is the degree of the customer’s conviction that using the Khaliji Airline’s website for booking and purchasing air ticket is easy. It would also include the belief that the use of the website of the Khaliji Airline would enhance their experience in booking tickets. An airline, the ticket buying process of which is complicated or demanding, will make a potential customer think twice about dealing with these inconveniences or not.
The quality of the information given by the website of the Khaliji Airline, including the accuracy, content, reliability, and general presentation, is very important. The clients will always prefer an airline that offers much easier and convenient process of booking (Nusair & Kandampully, 2008). The passengers who have been satisfied with the quality service may express commitment by purchasing the tickets from the Khaliji Airline or communicating their satisfactory experiences to other people (Wirtz & Nikolai, 2003).
Social networking has become a global source of information and feedback. Therefore, consumers rely on it largely before making any decision on buying the services and goods. There are also online consumer review services, into which people can log in order to search for the required information. The positive reviews on the Khaliji Airline encourage potential passengers to purchase the air tickets from the company (Lubbe, 2007).
The attitude of the consumer can affect the decision of the consumers when they are buying an air ticket. They may be defined or influenced by emotions or thought of positions of the consumers towards a particular matter. Usually, people have their own attitude on certain issues including the products and services of these companies, ideas, or other issues. In every aspect, an attitude may be the favorable or unfavorable evaluations of an issue in question. The important aspect to note about the customers’ attitudes is that, as a rule, they are enduring. It is difficult to change as they are supported by the beliefs and values of other people. In this sense, it is in each and every company’s interest that the consumers of their products and services maintain positive associations regarding the services and goods they offer.
The attitudes make people cooperate with the same airline, buy tickets from it, and avoid any purchases of the airline’s tickets from the other companies. These attitudes are based on the experience the customers have acquired from the previous purchases, personal experience, or other sources. The positive attitudes make the customers always prefer buying the air tickets from the company whereas the negative attitudes result in avoidance of such purchases.
Business solutions for Gulf Air
The airline is mandated to take steps is rebranding the business. The managerial team has to act in marketing the products, prices, promotions, and distribution decisions. The marketing of the services will entail different steps. The airline has to set aside the financial issues to cushion the campaign. The strategy in this area will include providing the transport packages to the consumers. The package will include special offers free of charge; this step will help make more clients choose the airline as their service provider. It is going to be the company’s long-term business strategy aimed at maintaining the business in the marketing program. The business will attract the customers and provide competitive advantage over the other airlines. The airline can also contract the major stakeholder in the transportation sector via the business plans. For example, the airline can sign a contract to offer transportation services to football club in their daily businesses. The majority of other players in the industry have already used this approach in strengthening and marketing their business (Oxford Business Group, 2008).
The Gulf Air can also offer promotions and launch public campaigns in both the local and global market. This may be done through the use of technology. This can be a major boost for the airline. The public strategy, in such a scenario, will change the attitude of the consumers towards the airline. The new markets will also be informed on the existing and new customer opportunities. The airline will be concerned with marketing their services in the global market. Their price issues will be another area that the company needs to look through. The majority of the ex-customers left the company because of the prices and chose other cheap airlines (Summers, 2007). The company has to restructure the prices to satisfy their consumers of different classes. The restructuring should cut prices for all classes of travelers and in all the destinations. The distribution of services and products is a key business solution to any airline. Expansion and the business at home will create favorable conditions. The airline has to venture new destination. This step will expand its market and increase the profits. The increased distribution will also enable the company to purchase more airplanes to satisfy the demand of the consumers (Lubbe, 2007).
Ethical Marketing Strategies
The airline has to introduce its ethical marketing strategies both at the local and global levels. The ethical issues in marketing vary from one country to another. Each state has unique rules and regulations that control the businesses in terms of marketing. The company has to undertake certain steps to study different approaches in each country and consider them in the airline’s local strategy. The marketing rules should not discriminate or render another airline incompetent in business. The rules on competition should follow the common marketing strategy. Moreover, the airline has a mandate to protect the integrity of each established medium of advertisement while campaigning. The rules of public rallies, online presentations, and brochures significantly vary. Each media they choose should neither provoke the public in any way nor initiate the lawsuits by the interested parties (North & Tripp, 2008).
The whole team has to ensure that no stakeholders in the transport sector are affected by the marketing strategy. When the business intends to grab the minimal opportunities in the airline sector, it has to create and observe the ethical steps and their influence on the community.
The different approaches of marketing will ensure and encourage all business players to respect the ethical decisions they make. Ethical issues have negatively affected other businesses that do not adhere to it. The concerns will mostly affect women and children in the business. The manner of advertisement creates an impression permanent to the consumers, who are going to cooperate with the airline.
While operating in Bahrain, Gulf Air has faced numerous challenges over the past years, which have affected the business in its profits. The problems of the partners’ pulling out and accidents have had a negative effect on its consumers. Most travelers preferred other airlines both locally and globally. The problems have raised challenges and forced the airline to cut its workers who defected to the competing airlines. The airline has established the long-term business solutions that will improve its consumers’ level of satisfaction. The solutions range from the price regulation, expansion, promotion, and marketing services. Upon implementing the solutions, the airline will offer stiff competition to other entities in the same business.