The drivers of profitability in the top 30 major airlines worldwide

Ilídio Tomás Lopes, Duarte Pitta Ferraz, Ana Maria Gomes Rodrigues

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this study is to identify the impact of human and structural capital on profitability of major airlines and examine whether region, capital ownership and control and strategic alliance play a clustering effect on profitability. Design/methodology/approach: Using information from the top 30 airlines worldwide, in particular human and structural capital proxies, a linear model is regressed. Test of hypotheses were performed towards the identification of the influence emerged from variables, such as region, capital ownership and control and strategic alliances, on intellectual capital drivers and profitability. Findings: Turnover is driven by human and structural capital factors, namely: employee expenses and benefits; size of board of directors; intangible assets; codeshare agreements; and passenger traffic. Airlines profitability does not depend on region, capital ownership and control or strategic alliance in which the company is integrated. Research limitations/implications: In spite of the limitations, we underline the range of time under analysis and the sample size. However, the current approach can be replicated over time and based in other rankings, structured on different metrics and approaches. Practical implications: The empirical results provide both an understanding of how independent variables positively affect the performance of airlines and offer some explanation as to the relationship between key characteristics of firms and profitability. Originality/value: The research adds value to the current literature by exploring the effects of new intellectual capital drivers on profitability of airlines firms. Focused on a sector that strongly contributes to improve the networking between nations, it provides a new and updated overview.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-37
Number of pages12
JournalMeasuring Business Excellence
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Airlines
  • Aviation sector
  • Human capital
  • Intangibles
  • Intellectual capital
  • Profitability
  • Structural capital


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