Etihad Being Invited to Join Oneworld?

The drama of Middle Eastern airlines and will they or won’t they join alliances heats up some more.

  • Emirates was a partner of United and Continental. That partnership ended, and my sense is that wasn’t Emirates’ doing. They’ve wanted US partners (and have developed JetBlue and Alaska relationships).

  • I expected that they would link up with American. I believe they had discussions with American. Instead, American developed a relationship with Etihad.

  • Etihad bought into oneworld carrier Air Berlin. It seemed like Etihad would join oneworld.

  • Then Emirates entered into a joint business venture with oneworld carrier Qantas.

  • While Qatar agreed to join oneworld.

  • And Etihad began getting close to Skyteam airlines. Did that signal that Etihad could join Skyteam.. and even bring Air Berlin with it?

Now word is that Etihad will be invited to join oneworld, or at least it’s being reported that American Airlines CEO says so.

“We have an important presence in the Indian sub-continent through member carriers such as Qatar Airways and Sri Lankan Airlines flying into India,” he said, adding that Etihad Airways is also being extended an invitation to join the alliance.

Strictly speaking oneworld inviting them could have been misinterpreted as oneworld pursuing them and no doubt other alliances are as well.

It’s hard to imagine a formal invitation being extended to an airline that hasn’t already indicated a willingness to accept.

And it’s hard to imagine pending entrant Qatar joining oneworld and being happy about an invitation being offered to Etihad as well. If this were to happen, Qantas would be in partnership with all three of the major Gulf carriers.

But it seems unlikely. Either the report is off, or it’s accurate and there’s uncertainty about whether Qatar will really join oneworld.

The carriers are big deals for alliances, with the Middle East being great connecting points to much of the much and offering generally high quality products. From a mileage redemption standpoint they’re among the most desirable carriers as well.

Which leads me to wonder, where is Star in all of this?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. wouldn’t it be kinda embarrassing for Qatar to retract their commitment to join ONEWORLD now that there’s been so much fanfare about it?

    I bet United is kinda regretting letting Qatar partnership go. but i hear it was LH that vetoed Qatar joining Star, since the Gulf carriers steal so much connecting revenue from LH. its LH killing the deals and playing party pooper.

    not sure of Air Berlin’s entry into Skyteam – its too close to AMS and CDG hubs already. and Oneworld really needs Air Berlin to be its continental Europe feeder airline.

  2. I’ve often wondered why UA/Star won’t cozy up with Oman Air. It doesn’t have a big enough route network to steal from LH/LX but has good coverage on the peninsula and to India. Plus that F cabin is f-ing awesome.

  3. I think the ending of the UA/EK relationship, while technically originated by UA was due mostly to UA getting closer with QR and EK’s reluctance to join any of the major alliances. EK has long had codesharing and mileage/earn burn with several other carriers, but has always stopped short of full-blown alliance membership. Even with QF, it’s still that way – although admittedly much more developed.

    For a long time, it looked like QR was going to go Star. They had extensive earn and burn reciprocity with Mileage Plus, and a fair number of codeshares with UA. It also explained QR’s initial choice of routes to the US: JFK, IAH, IAD.

    At some point, QR decided to go with Oneworld instead. I remember one of the signals that preceded the official announcement was Mileage Plus cancelling their reciprocal earn/burn with very short notice. The move to Oneworld may also dictate some future US route shifts. DFW may make more sense than IAH, and the recently announced PHL service may end up replacing IAD down the road. We’ll see.

    In the meantime, Etihad was the carrier that originally looked like the Oneworld partner. It still has many AA codeshares, plus a lot of reciprocity with AAdvantage. As you pointed out, recently many of the moves have been towards Skyteam. EY now has codeshares with AF, KL, GA, AZ, and VX to name a few.

    Who knows what’s going to happen in all of this, but if we back up to a year ago (pre QR OW announcement), I would have said QR to Star, EY to Oneworld, Skyteam stuck with leftovers (as usual), and EK staying on their own.

    I’d be surprised but not shocked if QR ends up not joining OW. Their CEO is very prone to changing his mind on a whim.

  4. EY is way closer to skyteam than their small ownership of Airberlin

    QR would definitely be FURIOUS if this report were true

  5. EY joining oneworld would also cause strange things in the airline relationships in Australia. QF (oneworld) is heavily partnered with EK while the main competition VA (unaligned) is partnered with EY for Middle East, Subcontinent and Europe traffic. This would make things quite difficult.

  6. Lufthansa management has been making a stink about the big 3 GCC carriers, and co-opting them may not make strategic sense in the absence of some kind of LH ATI allowing for a JV to/from/via the GCC carrier(s). No wonder Star Alliance doesn’t have any of the Big 3 GCC carriers scheduled in.

  7. What was the schedule for UA and EK severing relationship compared to the ATI JV allowances granted to UA-LH for TATL travel?

  8. For an LAX based one world loyalist who wants an aspirational award, whom should I be rooting for?

  9. EY are not about to join any alliance, why would they?
    their current strategy of many bilateral agreements is creating a virtual alliance with them at the center. In any case they are closer to skyteam than OW, so even if they were to join, it would be skytema rather than OW. Rumors that they will soon announce ATL so perhaps it is DL that they will get close to.

  10. @Beachfan – I have flown both QR and EY a lot (only in F and J classes though). I prefer EY, mainly because of the solo seating in J class, as well as the dine-on-demand service in both F and J. QR however is superior in terms of IFE, and their on-ground experience in Doha is tough to beat.

  11. Quite honestly for me as long as one of the three joins OW, i don’t much care who it is.

    Opening up options into the IO is my only concern.

  12. Isn’t the case that *A has already Turkish that has several routes for these central Asian and India and a much more extensive overall network?

    TK does not offer a First Class product anymore, but they have a solid business class product.

  13. Really, can’t they just get on with it. I’d like to fly them on miles, but this courting game is interfering. What I’d most prefer is a situation where I can route through Middle East and go on a stopover (23-hour is fine) instead of Europe. To that end, AA/OW with it’s transit restrictions doesn’t convey that sort of ability. Since Doha is less appealing a stop anyway, I’m fine with them taking QR. As far as EK, EY, I’d like Star to grab one of them. The Oman Air sounds like a good solution for LH though. If I were Oman, I’d be precipitating an invite. Also, if skymiles were actually usable on EK or EY, I’d be cool with that.

  14. etihad airways si estaria muy bien su union a ONEWORLD con Qatar pondrian freno a emirates entre las dos serian mas fuertes gustaria verla en la alliance

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