A couple of days ago I received an email from the Weber Shadwick PR folks about oneworld’s announcement on Monday in New York. The briefing will be at 2pm with oneworld’s Chairman, Willie Walsh of British Airways and Iberia, and oneworld’s CEO.
The smart money has been on Qatar, either joining oneworld outright or creating some sort of alliance with part of oneworld rather than full integration (the recent Qantas-Emirates alliance, and termination of partnership with Qantas and other oneworld carriers on Australia – Europe routes, makes it tough for Qantas to also partner with Qatar).
Although it’s conceivable that it’s something more mundane, full integration for Malaysia Airlines or formal announcement that TAM is leaving Star Alliance for oneworld given its merger with oneworld member LAN.
Increasingly, more of those legacy airlines are recognizing that they will not be able to curtail the growth of Qatar, Etihad and Emirates…
Qatar Airways has been negotiating its admission into Oneworld for months. Oneworld has traditionally had a more relaxed approach toward what members are allowed to do outside of the alliance. But it speaks volumes that it has selected Qatar to strengthen its Asian operation. In a strange way, it is countering the all-but defection of Qantas to Emirates by mirroring the effort…
Admitting Qatar could also be a sign that Oneworld is not sure whether Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways is going to stay for the longterm. And even if it does, the value may be limited: Cathay cannot introduce a joint venture with British Airways on the all-important London route because such an arrangement would never be allowed by the regulatory authorities. On the other hand, Cathay is tied to Air China, a Star Alliance member, through cross-ownership. Even traditionally restrictive Star had to accept this.
My bet — given that Willie Walsh is coming across the pond for the event — is that Monday’s event will involve Qatar after all, and a deep relationship with British Airways (and oneworld sans Qantas).