Airline Sustainability in a Liberalised Environment
: Generating a Conceptual Framework with a Holistic Approach to Airline Sustainability

  • Roxani Athousaki

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Airline failures have increased in the past five years despite improvements in traffic
    growth. Airlines enable connectivity and provide numerous benefits with their wider
    socio-political and economic role. However, various systems, pressures and trends
    disturb the operation of the Commercial Air Transport (CAT) system and its existing
    balance with society, economy and the environment. Airlines, as principal stakeholders
    of the CAT system, are influenced in multiple ways. Thus, airline sustainability is a
    concept that ‘is complex and conceptual’ and requires a holistic approach based on
    systems thinking paradigm. The objective of this study was to introduce a new
    sustainability approach with the development of a Conceptual Framework that generates
    a holistic approach and creates the foundation for the establishment of a Sustainability
    (Su) Management System for Airlines operating in a liberalised environment. This
    research is underpinned with theory on the domain of business sustainability and follows
    a Grounded Theory methodology. Successive interpretations in the qualitative data
    analysis process resulted in developing a ‘sustainability construct’ that engages airlines
    in a systematic review of their main Areas of Concern (AoC). The sustainability construct
    consists of eight (8) Sustainability Business Drivers (Su Business Drivers) with properties
    (i.e. focus areas) and dimensions; and, the Conceptual Framework designed to utilise the
    Su Business Drivers and to implement a systems thinking approach to airline
    sustainability. The Su Business Drivers assist airlines to understand their current state in
    the liberalised environment and to draw valuable conclusions on various sustainability
    areas. In addition, the use of a Conceptual Framework for airline sustainability based on
    a Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) process cycle approach is another significant contribution
    of this study as it provides the foundation for the development of a Sustainability
    Management System (SuMS) and the ability to operationalise sustainability. Finally, the
    holistic approach contributes to a more sustainable path for the airline industry and opens
    multiple areas for further research across different domains in the CAT system.
    Date of Award2020
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorMike Blundell (Supervisor), Steve Martin (Supervisor) & Alexeis Garcia-Perez (Supervisor)


    • Airline Sustainability
    • Liberalised Environment
    • Holistic Approach
    • Systems Thinking

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