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Priority queues : where social justice and equity collide

Alexander, Matthew and Maclaren, Andrew and O'Gorman, Kevin D and White, Christopher (2012) Priority queues : where social justice and equity collide. Tourism Management, 33 (4). pp. 875-884. ISSN 0261-5177

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Multi-level queues have become a common feature in service sector contexts, examples include ‘guest lists’ at nightclubs and ‘priority boarding’ in air travel. This paper explores multi-level queuing systems within the context of theme parks, specifically their effects on consumers. Previous studies have focussed on single line systems and multi-level queues remain under-researched. By applying social justice and equity theory, the paper uses a mixed methods approach with site visits to theme parks followed up by two factorial experiments. The analytical contribution of the paper is its application of theoretically underpinned queuing research. The empirical gap addressed is multi-level queuing systems. The overall contribution of the paper offers new theory identifying tensions that exist between consumers in different queuing levels. If social justice is achieved for one group then it will create inequity for another; if equity is achieved then it will create injustice.