This paper aims to present a newly developed distance friction minimization (DFM) method in the context of data envelopment analysis (DEA) in order to generate an appropriate (non-radial) efficiency-improving projection model, for both input reduction and output increase. In this approach, a generalized distance function, based on a Euclidean distance metric in weighted spaces, is proposed to assist a decision making unit (DMU) to improve its performance by an appropriate movement towards the efficiency frontier surface. A suitable form of multidimensional projection function for efficiency improvement is given by a Multiple Objective Quadratic Programming (MOQP) model. The paper describes the various steps involved in a systematic manner. The above-mentioned DFM model is illustrated empirically by using a data set on 30 European airports, where the aim is to present a comparative analysis of the efficiency of operational management in these airports. In addition, the comparative analysis of these airports is able to assess both input slacks and output slacks (or a combination of input reduction and output rise). © 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.