Product differentiation is a competitive business strategy whereby firms attempt to gain a competitive advantage. Airlines have employed several differentiation strategies to gain a competitive advantage over other airlines in order to better position their products. People with disabilities, together with careers, constitute a large potential consumer market segment for the tourism and hospitality industry. Disability affects 15Ã¢ÂÂ20% of every country's population. The growing market of physically challenged persons can be a source of competitive advantage for the airlines if they differentiate their products and services by fulfilling the needs of physically challenged persons. The literature review gave clear focus to the relevance of the research problem and underlined the gaps in the body of knowledge. Accordingly, the research problem formulated for this research was "How can airlines differentiate their services and achieve competitive advantage by fulfilling the needs of physically challenged persons?"
The interpretivist orientation of qualitative research methods with case studies has guided this research; the aim being to investigate the research problem and research questions leading to research propositions.
The aim of this thesis is to enhance understanding of the issue of how airlines can differentiate their services and achieve competitive advantage by fulfilling the needs of physically challenged individuals and also to develop a model rather than test theory.
The unit of analysis was international airlines (single unit of analysis). Four major airlines were chosen as cases and in-depth interviews were carried out among 15 persons at different hierarchical management levels (3 to 5 from each airline depending on the participants' availability). Purposeful and convenience methods of sampling were used as the sampling strategy. Access to the sample group was based on the researcher's personal contacts.
Airlines were chosen from the different Asian regions for maximum representation. Data were collected from the in-depth interviews,