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Strategic management of a family-owned airline: Analysing the absorptive capacity of Cimber Sterling Group A/S


  • Boyd, Britta
  • Hollensen, Svend


The concept of absorptive capacity (ACAP) observing a firm's ability to value, assimilate and utilise new external knowledge is applied in this paper. This case study analysis focuses on the strategic management processes and competitiveness of the Cimber Sterling airline. The aim is to discover resources and capabilities that lead to competitive advantages within the aviation industry. From an ACAP perspective, Cimber Sterling Group A/S was analysed by interviewing selected owners, managers and employees of the airline. A comparison within the airline industry regarding external factors and the strategic management of other selected low-cost airlines is part of the ACAP concept. The analysis shows to what extent Cimber Sterling Group A/S, as a Danish family business, copes with increasing competition and critical situations, such as the recent volcanic ash cloud and the financial crisis. Identifying the potential and realised capacity of the strategic management of airlines was revealed as a source of strategic competitiveness. The ACAP was improved through stakeholder experience, strategic flexibility, networking capabilities and customer orientation, leading to a competitive advantage realisation in the low-cost airline market.

Suggested Citation

  • Boyd, Britta & Hollensen, Svend, 2012. "Strategic management of a family-owned airline: Analysing the absorptive capacity of Cimber Sterling Group A/S," Journal of Family Business Strategy, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 70-78.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:fambus:v:3:y:2012:i:2:p:70-78 DOI: 10.1016/j.jfbs.2012.03.003

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Cardy, Robert L. & Selvarajan, T.T., 2006. "Competencies: Alternative frameworks for competitive advantage," Business Horizons, Elsevier, vol. 49(3), pages 235-245.
    2. Zellweger, Thomas M. & Eddleston, Kimberly A. & Kellermanns, Franz W., 2010. "Exploring the concept of familiness: Introducing family firm identity," Journal of Family Business Strategy, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 54-63, March.
    3. Frank, Hermann & Lueger, Manfred & Nosé, Lavinia & Suchy, Daniela, 2010. "The concept of "Familiness": Literature review and systems theory-based reflections," Journal of Family Business Strategy, Elsevier, vol. 1(3), pages 119-130, September.
    4. O’Connell, John F. & Williams, George, 2005. "Passengers’ perceptions of low cost airlines and full service carriers: A case study involving Ryanair, Aer Lingus, Air Asia and Malaysia Airlines," Journal of Air Transport Management, Elsevier, vol. 11(4), pages 259-272.
    5. Irava, Wayne J. & Moores, Ken, 2010. "Clarifying the strategic advantage of familiness: Unbundling its dimensions and highlighting its paradoxes," Journal of Family Business Strategy, Elsevier, vol. 1(3), pages 131-144, September.
    6. Mario Mazzocchi & Francesca Hansstein & Maddalena Ragona, 2010. "The 2010 Volcanic Ash Cloud and Its Financial Impact on the European Airline Industry," CESifo Forum, Ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 11(2), pages 92-100, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Goel, Sanjay & Mazzola, Pietro & Phan, Phillip H. & Pieper, Torsten M. & Zachary, Ramona K., 2012. "Strategy, ownership, governance, and socio-psychological perspectives on family businesses from around the world," Journal of Family Business Strategy, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 54-65.
    2. Delbari, Seyyed Ali & Ng, Siew Imm & Aziz, Yuhanis Abdul & Ho, Jo Ann, 2016. "An investigation of key competitiveness indicators and drivers of full-service airlines using Delphi and AHP techniques," Journal of Air Transport Management, Elsevier, vol. 52(C), pages 23-34.
    3. Comi, Alice & Eppler, Martin J., 2014. "Diagnosing capabilities in family firms: An overview of visual research methods and suggestions for future applications," Journal of Family Business Strategy, Elsevier, vol. 5(1), pages 41-51.


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