The Centre for Air Transport Management welcomes applications from those interested in pursuing a research degree. We are able to offer both full- and part-time study options. 

How to apply 

As part of your application process, we would expect you to submit a research proposal. This must include a working title, statement of why this research is necessary, a set of research questions, a short review of existing literature, potential contributions to knowledge and an outline of your proposed methodology. Your proposal will be evaluated together with the rest of your application.

If you would like to discuss potential ideas before making an application then please contact Dr Romano Pagliari.

You can find out more about research opportunities at Cranfield University, including the application process, fees and funding, on our Research Degrees page. Please remember to apply through the Transport Systems theme.

Apply for PhD in Transport Systems
Apply for MPhil in Transport Systems
Apply for MSc by Research in Transport Systems

Information on doctoral research degrees in air transport

What happens after I submit an application?

Your application will be reviewed and you may be invited to attend an interview. If the interview is successful you will receive an offer to study for your chosen research degree.

When do I start?

The University has fixed induction dates throughout the academic year and you will be able to agree these with the Centre following your interview.

Can I study part-time?

We offer a part-time option which enables you to combine work with study.


You will be allocated two supervisors who will provide advice and guidance until completion.

How long does it take to complete a research degree?

Full-time Part-time
PhD 3 years 6 years
MPhil 2 years 4 years
MRes 1 year 2 years

How are research degrees assessed?

At the end of the registration period, research students submit a dissertation which will be assessed by external and internal examiners. A student is then invited to attend a viva voce examination where they will have the opportunity to defend their research.

Progress throughout the registration period is monitored by progress reviews where students are invited to report on the development of their research.

Do I need to attend any courses at Cranfield University during my registration period?

Students will be able to access an extensive suite of research training and personal development courses offered by the University.

Recently completed doctoral research projects

The role of airports in national civil aviation policies

Researcher: Darshi Piyathilake
Supervisors: Professor Keith Mason & Dr Pere Suau-Sanchez

The concept of a hub airport has evolved widening its scope as a national civil aviation policy-making tool, due to the ability to deliver wider socio-economic benefits to a country. However, not all airports can be converted into hubs. This research proposes a methodological approach to structural analysis of the airport industry, that could be applied to determine the competitive position of an airport in a given aviation network and devise airport strategies and national policy measures to improve the current position of the airport. This study presents a twelve-group taxonomy of airports, which analyses the changing geography of the airport industry in the East (Asia and the Middle East). Multivariate data have been used in a two-step Agglomerative Hierarchical Clustering exercise which represents three airport strategies: namely, degree-of-airport-activity (size and intensity of operations), network strategies (international and domestic hub), and the market segmentation strategies (service and destination orientation). Principal Component Analysis has been utilised as a data reduction tool. The study confirms the general hypothesis that a sound macro environment and liberalised approach to economic regulation in the air transport industry are important for successful hub operations. In addition, it sheds light on the fact that while the factors of geographical advantage, economic development, urbanisation, tourism and business attractiveness, physical and intellectual infrastructure, and political and administrative frameworks, are all basic prerequisites (qualifiers) for successful hubbing in the region, those factors would not necessarily guarantee a hub status unless the governments are also committed to develop the sector and take timely decisions (differentiators) to allow airports to benefit from the first mover advantage. Application of the proposed taxonomy was tested on a case study of the major international airport of Sri Lanka, to provide policy inputs to develop the airport that is currently identified as being overshadowed by the mega hubs in the region.

Evaluation of AIRQUAL scale for measuring airlines service

Researcher: Mishal Alotaibi
Supervisor: Professor Keith Mason

Globalisation and stiff competition have changed the landscape of doing business. Decrease in customer loyalty and increase in customer expectations have challenged businesses to come up with unique methods of enhancing their quality of service. The same is true for airlines industry too. As a result, many airlines have transformed their marketing strategies, especially with regard to service quality, in order to compete efficiently in the global market. The marketing literature has introduced models of service quality, e.g.: SERVQUAL and AIRQUAL to help organisations measure and enhance customer experiences. SERVQUAL has been extensively researched and applied in many industries. Similarly, AIRQUAL, a model for the airline industry, has been developed but applied only in Cyprus. Moreover, the AIRQUAL scale lacks validity, as its development process is incomplete. This research, therefore, adapted 30-items of AIRQUAL and assessed and validated this revised scale. The validated scale was then applied to the airline industry of Saudi Arabia. Further, a comprehensive model is proposed, where the impact of the validated scale of service quality is tested with its impact on customer satisfaction, attitudinal loyalty, word of mouth, repurchase intentions and complaining behaviour. The assessment and validation process is divided into two main stages: first, qualitative; where four focus group interviews were undertaken that generated 46 items for the adapted scale. These items describe the perceptions of airline customers regarding service quality and were classified on the bases of the scheme proposed by Parasuraman et al. (1988). Second, a three-phase two sample, quantitative, research was performed to derive a validated 30-item scale comprising five dimensions: tangibles, reliability, responsiveness, assurance, and empathy. Further, the improved scale was tested in a new market (Saudi market) in order to assess the service quality of Saudi Airlines. A total of 500 self-administered questionnaires were distributed among airline customers. The returned questionnaires underwent thorough screening and cleaning. The reliability of the scale was tested through Cronbach’s Alpha, followed by exploratory factor analysis (EFA), which emerged with five dimensions. The content, convergent and discriminant validities were established. Further scale confirmation was conducted on a sample of US airline passengers. Finally, the proposed model with nine hypotheses was tested, which resulted in statistically significant results for all the proposed hypotheses.

The impact of airport road wayfinding design on senior driver behaviour

Researcher: Nur Khairiel Anuar
Supervisors: Dr. Romano Pagliari & Rich Moxon

Airport road access wayfinding refers to a process in which a driver makes a decision to navigate using information support systems in order to arrive to airport successfully. The purpose of this research is to evaluate senior drivers’ behaviour of alternative airport road access designs. In order to evaluate the impact of wayfinding, the combination of simulated driving and completion of a questionnaire were performed. Quantitative data was acquired to give significant results justifying the research outcomes and allow non-biased interpretation of the research results. It represents the process within the development of the methodology and the concept of airport road access design and driving behaviour. Wayfinding complexity varied due to differing levels of road-side furniture. The simulated driving parameters measured were driving mistakes and performances of senior drivers. Three types of driving scenarios were designed consisting of 3.8 miles of airport road access. 40 senior drivers volunteered to undertake these tasks. The questionnaire was used as a supporting study to increase the reliability and validity of the research. Respondents who volunteered for the simulated driving test were encouraged to participate in the questionnaire sessions. The questionnaire was answered after each simulation test was completed. The Mean, Standard Deviation (SD) and Two-Way ANOVA test were used to analyse the results and discussed with reference to the use of the driving simulation. The results confirmed that age group has no significant effect of airport road access complexity design on driving behaviour. Although many studies have been conducted on wayfinding in general, a detailed evaluation on airport road access wayfinding network and driving behaviour in respect of senior drivers were still unexplored domains.

The assessment of the relationship between information technology (IT) and airport performance

Researcher: Carlos Yoshihiro Kaduoka,
Supervisors: Dr. Romano Pagliari & Dr. Zheng Lei

The evolution of the airport business is demonstrated by airports that are adopting new business strategies and commercial models, which allow them to be, for example, service providers instead of real-estate managers, with the focus on cost reduction and increasing non-aeronautical (commercial) revenues. Information technology (IT) can be used by airports to achieve their business goals, such as enhancing performance by delivering cost reductions and generating additional revenue streams. Airports operate in an increasingly competitive and dynamic market, with the aim of attracting a larger share of hub traffic from neighbouring airports. Therefore, financial and operational performance will be key elements for airlines when choosing a new airport destination. The research shows that airports are more focused on passenger satisfaction, resulting in airport performance indicators that have the passenger at its operational core and performance targets (e.g. Airport Service Quality passenger satisfaction survey). IT plays an important role in increasing airport performance through the automation of processes such as the deployment of common-use check-in desks and self-service check-in kiosks. Studies of other industries have shown evidence that IT impacts firm performance, but there have been few studies related to the airport industry. Thus, the aim of this research is to assess the relationship between IT and airport performance, and it proposes a conceptual framework to assess the relationship between IT and airport performance by drawing from studies in other industries. Two methodologies were used in this research, the first one was the case study, and the second one was the online survey. The case studies consisted of 16 face-to- face interviews with senior staff representing two airports in Asia, one airport in Australia, and one airport in Europe. The case studies result show that there is a relationship between IT and airport performance.