Could airships make a comeback? : evidence from a case study within the tourism industry of Queenstown, New Zealand : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Aviation at Massey University, Manawatū Campus, New Zealand. EMBARGOED until 1 June 2018
Airships are lighter-than-air (LTA) aircraft that have historically been used for passenger and cargo services.
However, since the advent of the Hindenburg Disaster in 1937, their use in civil aviation has been markedly limited.
Airships have a number of characteristics that are unique from other aircraft and arguably may generate consumer
interest for certain applications. This thesis illustrates that one potentially viable application of airships within
civil aviation is scenic flights for touristic purposes. To examine consumer interest in scenic airship services, a
mixed-methods approach was employed using Queenstown, New Zealand as a case study. Focus groups were used to explore
broad consumer opinions relating to airships, including preferences and concerns. These opinions were quantified using
a questionnaire. The focus groups and questionnaire results revealed consumer preferences with regard to activities
(e.g. food and drink), airship design (e.g. facilities) and the nature of the experience (e.g. novelty), as well as
concerns (e.g. safety). To present a business case, these preferences were used to design two options for a scenic
airship service, both using a conceptual airship design called the Aether Concept. The first option was a 3 1/2 hour
sightseeing tour that incorporated a meal and a drink, while the second option was an all-inclusive overnight service.
A market evaluation using these two options revealed significant interest (in terms of pricing and demand) from consumers
towards both options as well as the idea of performing adventure activities as part of either option. Consumer justifications
for pricing and purchase decisions in the market evaluation were incorporated with the preferences and concerns from
the focus groups and questionnaire to form a descriptive model that shows the motivational factors (relaxation, adventure,
nature, novelty, quality, enjoyment and education) and mediating factors (location, duration, on-board activities,
airship design, risk perception and price perception) that contribute towards consumer interest in scenic airship services.
In addition, a new methodology for developing and testing new discontinuous products is presented and demonstrated in this thesis.