Qatar Airways Threatens To Leave Oneworld Alliance

The IATA Annual General Meeting has been going on in Miami the past several days, which is one of the most attended events by airline big wigs. As a result I was expecting some serious drama, given how tense the industry is right now. That’s particularly true between the US airlines and Gulf carriers, and kind of all the other airlines which are taking sides.

Well, the good news is that we finally have some drama we’ve been waiting for. And you won’t be surprised to hear who’s starting it.

Qatar Airways’ CEO, Akbar Al Baker, is threatening to leave the oneworld alliance.

Qatar-Airways-A350-06

Via The Wall Street Journal:

Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker has threatened to exit the oneworld alliance because of actions that he said were taken by fellow member American Airlines Group Inc. to block his carrier’s business.

“There is no point in us being in oneworld if an airline that invited us, hosted us in America to sign the entry to oneworld, is today going against us,” Mr. Al Baker said in an interview on the sidelines of the International Air Transport Association’s annual meeting. American is “impeding our growth,” he said.

Mr. Al Baker said he would give oneworld representatives time to address the issue.

Now, there’s no doubt in my mind this is all talk and that Qatar Airways won’t leave oneworld. While alliances aren’t as valuable as they once were, Qatar Airways works closely with several oneworld airlines, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. They even own a stake in British Airways, and there’s no way they’re leaving oneworld.

Qatar-Airways-A380-First-Class-113

But that won’t stop Al Baker from threatening retaliatory protectionism, which he’s quite blunt about:

The threat comes hours after Mr. Al Baker also warned fellow airline executives at the IATA meeting about efforts to curb his airline’s growth. “Any rollback of liberal market access and open skies policies reverberate across the whole world and will lead to retaliatory protectionism,” he said.

He has already done this with the Dutch, whereby he’s threatening to not give them any government contracts if Qatar Airways doesn’t get more landing slots.

Bottom line

In a way I appreciate Al Baker’s candor. We’ve seen the special interest groups for the US airlines call out virtually every US company that does business or promotes the Middle Eastern carriers, while completely giving American a pass for doing business with both Etihad and Qatar. If the US airlines truly think the Middle Eastern carriers are evil and will run their businesses into the ground, then it’s time they actually take a stand and put their money (or partnerships) where their mouths are.

Will Qatar Airways leave oneworld anytime soon? I doubt it. But that won’t stop the threats from continuing.

Do you think there’s any chance Qatar Airways will leave the oneworld alliance?

Comments

  1. Who cares? Qr releases very few FF award seats; they will fly with empty seats rather than allow award travel beyond the initial one or two seats. If they leave OW most passengers won’t notice. It’s not like there are any route synergies.

  2. Parker should call his bluff and tell him, “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.” Then he’ll either leave the alliance (which he presumably joined because he thought it would make his airline money) or he’ll look like a no-substance gasbag (even more than he usually does).

  3. At least QR offers better TATL availability than AA. Can’t beat the soon-to-be A350 on the PHL-DOH route.

  4. agreed, ILDC. I’m not sure anyone can complain about QR award availability, considering the very limited amount that AA offers up. And FWIW, QR’s biz soft-product is miles ahead of AA’s…

  5. I feel like the ME3 should really start to highlight how their business in America drives real American jobs — and jobs you can’t offshore. Pilots and FAs are obviously a lot of times the most visible and vocal and they claim that they don’t get job if you are flying on ME3 but for the ramp crews, mechanics, GAs, lounge dragons, food prep, CBP (okay these they managed to offshore but they are still done by Americans), etc., increased flights regardless of the airline means more jobs. And that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface as you talk about increases in commerce because of the flights.

  6. Their 10% stake in BA will and the opportunity to
    invest in the more troubled oneworld carriers like MAS will probably prevent them from even leaving. They will probably become to American what SQ has become to United or what Korean has become to Delta, an airline where you really can’t find that many codeshares nor awards

  7. Worthless Airline, worthless country, see ya!! Only folks who car I would guess are those trying to piece together rtw “1st class aspirational” awards

  8. Wonderful airline, takes you to Africa, India and most of Asia where AA doesn’t. And it’s a far, far, far better business class than AA, often at a fraction of the price.

    AA needs QR more than QR needs AA.

  9. @Ron Mexico

    Why do I get the sense that you never visited Qatar or ever set foot on a Qatar Airways plane? That’s fanaticism (same as the terrorists’), not informed opinion.

  10. @Ron Mexico

    I’ve never used an award ticket on QR, but I’ve flown their very solid business class product quite a bit in the past year. Anyone who has ever tried to connect through Dubai will appreciate the new and very manageable airport at Doha. QR also publishes outstanding fares to parts of the world that AA doesn’t serve at all and BA doesn’t serve well. Oneworld would take a huge loss if QR left the alliance.

  11. I can’t believe the Americans on this site with their free trade land of the free capitalist mentality actually put up with the anti consumer anti competitive slurry expounded by your monopolistic captive audience garbage service garbage product airlines. If Air Canada were offering QRs product service and routes into the USA the U.S. airlines would up their game immediately. It’s Institutionalised racism plain and simple.

  12. While I’m not a huge fan of Albaker, this time I agree with his fundamental argument: it really doesn’t make sense for two airlines who are sworn enemies to be in an alliance. So, they have to figure out, once and for all, if they’re going to be enemies or friends.

    As for those who only look at an airline’s worth to an alliance through the “award availability” lens, I would remind them that most flyers are NOT on awards. QR has a solid product and an expansive network and would certainly be missed by many if it left oneworld — which it won’t. Just sayin’…

  13. @Chuck there are huge route synergies if you need to get to the Middle East or Africa, or some parts of Asia. To be fair the benefits are far better for people based in Europe or Asia. For example, many people will fly QR from London to Asia to attain status faster on BA given BA’s tier point system.

  14. QR offers far better connectivity to South Asia than any other OW carrier. DOH is much nicer for connections than LHR. Their J class soft product is better than AA, BA, IB and even CX.

  15. If you’re traveling in the Middle East, Africa, or Asia, then Qatar is a huge asset to the oneworld alliance!! They were the source of many of my flights on my last trip. The Doha airport is super nice as well – and an amazing lounge on top of that. Great biz class product. Going to Dubai and on from there? Going to Africa? Nepal? You’ll be glad you have Qatar. Search award space on the BA site and it’s almost always available every day with proper planning!!!

  16. Nobody would cry if QR would leave oneworld. Personally I hate all three Gulf carriers and their pseudo-superb service full of ‘plastic’ gold. They just think that money can buy everything, but that’s not true. It is obvious that all 3 Gulf carriers has been well supported by their governments, as those airlines are a kind of play-toys in sheikhs’ hands. I am more than sure that many OWA’s passengers would be pleased to see Turkish Airlines (instead of QR) as part of OWA with their very well developed African and Middle East network. Their new Istanbul Grand Airport (IGA – to be open in 2017) would be an amazing hub for oneworld. At the same time I wouldnt mind if it would be LOT instead of Etihad’s owned airberlin developing OWA’s presence in CEEurope & CIS as LOT will soon be significantly growing its network in Europe, Asia and Northern America. Oneworld with Turkish and LOT and five European hubs at LHR, MAD, HEL, WAW and IGA would be a way better offer on the market than it is today with QR and AB as OWA members.

  17. Bwtween KAS, Ron Mexico and the delusional John w, the butt-hurt is exceptionally strong in today’s comment section. But as Lucky likes to point out, Al Bread-Baker tends to get people wound up when he speaks.

  18. If such a breakup happened, would QR still have to honor existing bookings?

    I have a USAir Mini-RTW booked with AA,BA,QR,JL flights, and it would be pretty bad if the whole itin got wrecked.

  19. @ Phil — Yep, they’d definitely honor existing bookings. Though again, highly doubt anything will happen here.

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