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Hospitality in aviation: A genealogical study

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The aviation business has gone through a process of radical restructuring during recent decades. Deregulation and fierce competition from low-cost carriers have put traditional flag carriers under pressure, resulting in falling fares. In this cost-cutting process, service quality aboard has in many cases fallen at the same time as the glamorous image of aviation partly remains. This process has resulted in a number of contradictions. The purpose of this article is to conduct a genealogical investigation of hospitality in aviation, in order to explain how the performance and image of hospitality have developed over time, and to thereby shed some light on contemporary developments. It is argued that the service culture of passenger aviation has two historical roots, both of which developed in distinct social and institutional settings. Traditional scheduled aviation developed out of first-class rail service and marine traditions coming from the passenger steamliners of the early twentieth century. Low-cost aviation on the other hand developed out of the charter industry, which in turn goes back to tour operators using buses and coaches. These two traditions have shaped different sets of expectations and relations to service aboard an aircraft. This historic perspective builds on a combination of social, geographic, economic, institutional and technological factors influencing the development of hospitality in aviation.

Keywords: aviation; casualization of aeromobility; catering; hospitality; low-cost aviation; stewardesses

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Lund University

Publication date: August 8, 2012

More about this publication?
  • Hospitality & Society is an international multidisciplinary social sciences journal focusing upon hospitality and exploring its connections with wider social and cultural processes and structures. The journal welcomes submissions from various disciplines and aims to be an interactive forum expanding frontiers of knowledge and contributing to the literature on hospitality social science. Articles that stimulate debate, discussion and exchange across disciplines are welcomed, as well as review essays or short topical pieces that are provocative and problematic in nature.

    Hospitality & Society is the official journal of the Council for Hospitality Management Education
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