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Benchmarking in civil aviation: some empirical evidence

Jackie Fry (Accounting and Finance Research Unit, Open University Business School, Milton Keynes, UK)
Ian Humphreys (Department of Civil and Building Engineering, Loughborough University, Loughborough, Loughborough, UK)
Graham Francis (Department of Accounting, Waikato Management School, Waikato University, Hamilton, New Zealand)

Benchmarking: An International Journal

ISSN: 1463-5771

Article publication date: 1 April 2005



This paper aims to explore the use of best practice benchmarking in civil aviation.


Evidence was gathered from two international questionnaire surveys of the top 200 airlines and the top 200 airports. Supplementary evidence included interviews with airline and airport managers.


The profile of responses was a good match to the samples. Benchmarking was identified as the most used performance improvement technique for both airlines and airports. Larger airlines were more likely to engage in benchmarking. Ease of usage and the cost relative to other performance improvement techniques were important factors in determining benchmarking uptake. Problems of data comparability and competitive sensitivity were raised. Airports had a greater tendency to concentrate on benchmarking with similar organisations and placed a relatively greater emphasis on its use for performance measurement over process improvement.

Research limitations/implications

Further research should include a sample of detailed case studies to investigate exactly how different airlines and airports are using benchmarking.

Practical implications

Performance measurement has become increasingly important in aviation as markets become more competitive and the number of asymmetric shocks seems to increase.


The surveys revealed a very high utilisation of benchmarking, although a range of activities were actually being undertaken under the banner of benchmarking. The high uptake of benchmarking is probably due, to the turbulent nature of civil aviation that has placed significant economic pressures on managers.



Fry, J., Humphreys, I. and Francis, G. (2005), "Benchmarking in civil aviation: some empirical evidence", Benchmarking: An International Journal, Vol. 12 No. 2, pp. 125-137.



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Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited