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

Britta Boyd, Svend Hollensen

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    The concept of absorptive capacity (ACAP) observing a firm’s ability to value, assimilate and utilize new external knowledge is applied in this paper. This case study analysis focuses on strategic management processes and competitiveness of the Cimber Sterling airline. The aim is to discover resources and capabilities leading to competitive advantages within the aviation industry. From an ACAP perspective Cimber Sterling Group A/S was analyzed by interviewing selected owners, managers and employees of the airline. A comparison within the airline industry is part of the ACAP concept regarding external factors and the strategic management of other selected low-cost airlines. 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 volcanic ash cloud and financial crisis. Identifying the potential and realized capacity in the strategic management of airlines was revealed as a source of strategic competitiveness. The ACAP was improved especially through the stakeholders’ experience, strategic flexibility, networking capabilities and customer orientation, leading to competitive advantage realization in the low-cost airline market.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Family Business Strategy
    Issue number2
    Pages (from-to)70-78
    Number of pages9
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012


    • Absorptive capacity; aviation industry; competitive advantages; family firms; low-cost airlines; strategic management.


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