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The golden age: service management on transatlantic ocean liners

Ray W. Coye (Kellstadt Graduate School of Business, DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois, USA)
Patrick J. Murphy (Kellstadt Graduate School of Business, DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois, USA)

Journal of Management History

ISSN: 1751-1348

Article publication date: 17 April 2007




The paper seeks to explore lessons in service delivery from an industry that no longer exists. The transatlantic passenger liner dramatizes some of the most unique challenges of service delivery. The ship itself was a delivery mechanism completely separated from support services. Customers were essentially contained for extended periods. Whereas all customers received the same core transportation service, peripheral services varied substantially by service class.


Description of the historical context is followed by examinations of passenger and service provider perspectives to illustrate services expected and delivered. Primary and secondary source material is used to exemplify service management challenges.


Socioeconomic and technological factors played major roles in delivery system design decisions. With stable and loyal workforces and well designed delivery systems, ocean liners were able to deliver service successfully to customer classes with widely varying expectations.

Practical implications

Service management on ocean liners occupied a range of levels and intensity not found in current organizational contexts. The context provides modern practitioners pure consideration of complexities and service management implications.


The novel and isolated organizational aspects of transatlantic ocean liners is unique among organizations. Examination of service management in this context provides information of original value not available from examination of other kinds of organizations.



Coye, R.W. and Murphy, P.J. (2007), "The golden age: service management on transatlantic ocean liners", Journal of Management History, Vol. 13 No. 2, pp. 172-191.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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