Two months ago Qatar Airways threatened to leave the oneworld alliance, a threat that their CEO Akbar al-Baker has repeated several times.
- Qantas has tried to get the Australian government to limit their flights, and in response to Qatar’s talk of leaving oneworld the CEO of Qantas (and current Chairman of oneworld) Alan Joyce has suggested they go ‘if they’re not happy.’
- After a three year political battle with oneworld partner American Airlines — which rebuffed the Doha-based airline’s offer to purchase a stake in the U.S. carrier and ended its codeshare — American’s CEO Doug Parker is again looking for government to protect it from competition against Air Italy which is 49% owned by Qatar Airways
Qatar Airways’ public position is that partner airlines shouldn’t be attacking them. My bet, though, was that the Gulf carrier would ultimately want to see itself as a part of a global alliance, that they would not want to go it alone for reasons that are only partially related to the airline.
With the nation of Qatar facing a blockade by Saudi Arabia and the UAE they’ve worked hard to build ties to the rest of the world and won’t take steps to isolate themselves.
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker with Donald and Melania Trump in 2007, via Doha News
And oneworld makes far more sense for Qatar than changing alliances, switching costs aside, because they hold significant ownership stakes in oneworld members British Airways, Iberia, LATAM, and Cathay Pacific. Indeed, they are the largest owner of British Airways and Iberia parent IAG.
oneworld CEO Rob Gurney reported made an “impassioned plea” for Qatar Airways to stay in the alliance. While underscoring that the decision is Qatar’s and that the alliance will be fine, and customers taken care of either way, he’s given interviews in which he takes on the role of peacemaker. Such entreaties allow Akbar al-Baker to save face if indeed he needs the airline to remain in oneworld.
Gurney praised the Gulf carrier as a “terrific airline” but he made an impassioned plea for its member to stay.
“We think the alliance adds a lot of value to them. They add a lot of value to the alliance. We don’t want them to leave, but at the end of the day, this has got to work for them; it has got to work for everybody,” he said.
Gurney said, “We want them to stay.”
Qatar’s CEO did not attend the alliance’s annual meeting in New York where their existing partner Royal Air Maroc announced its pending entry into oneworld. Any exit would logically have been announced at that meeting, though Qatar has mentioned a Christmas deadline for a decision.
Credit: Qatar Airways
The Doha-based airline provides strong feed into India and Pakistan for those oneworld partners smart enough to benefit from it. And they frequently offer great value business class fares with the world’s best business class product (Qsuites) which you can even redeem partner miles for.