Existential Guilt and Preferential Treatment: The Case of an Airline Upgrade

Anna S. Mattila, Lydia Hanks, Lu Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

18 Scopus citations

Abstract

Using the context of an unexpected airline upgrade, we examined factors that influence an individual's reaction when they are overrewarded compared to others: guilt-proneness and relationship to the other, underrewarded, individuals. Results demonstrated that for individuals high in guilt-proneness, satisfaction with the upgrade and behavioral intent may be qualified by a feeling of existential guilt when they receive benefits that others do not, particularly if they have a close relationship with those others. Our results extend the research in advantageous inequality by showing that people high in guilt-proneness tend to have a heightened sensitivity to such injustices. Our findings also have important implications for the hospitality, airline, and travel industries: for customers high in guilt-proneness, receiving an expected upgrade may, in fact, have unintended negative results. Managers can use this information to make employees aware of the potential detrimental effects of rewarding or upgrading only one member of a party.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)591-599
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Travel Research
Volume52
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2013

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All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Transportation
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management

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