Qatar Airways CEO Threatens To Leave Oneworld Alliance Over Attacks By American Airlines

For a long time, American Airlines has been very public with its views on fellow oneworld alliance member, Qatar Airways. American take issue with Qatar Airways being a state-owned airline, and accuses the Qatari carrier of ‘receiving massive subsidies to support its operating costs and expansion efforts’.

Qatar has denied unfair subsidies and said U.S. airlines have absolutely benefited from government assistance (despite being a private company), as well as benefitting from bankruptcy laws that wiped out debts and pension obligations at American Airlines, among other US carriers.

American’s attacks on Qatar Airways are continuing to an extent that Qatar Airways CEO is now threatening (again) to withdraw from the oneworld alliance, telling media in New York that “Qatar’s commitment to the oneworld alliance has diminished as we are constantly being attacked by a oneworld partner.”

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American Airlines is among a number of US airlines which claim that Qatar Airways, along with Emirates & Etihad Airways, “have used billions of dollars in subsidies from their governments every year  to rapidly expand their fleets and global operations regardless of profitability.” American say that the “subsidies harm the U.S. aviation industry and hard-working Americans.”

It’s ironic because airlines in the US have enjoyed billions of dollars in various government subsidies over the years, despite being private companies, and not state-owned airlines such as the Gulf carriers. Furthermore, in the U.S. nearly all commercial airports are owned by the government and many share revenue with airlines.

At one point last year, American Airlines were pushing the following statement: “For every international flight that US airlines are forced to close due to subsidy-fueled Gulf carrier expansion, economists estimate that over 1,500 American jobs are lost” — a statement that has since been withdrawn, given Gulf Carriers have entirely different route network strategies to US carriers, and there hasn’t been any real example or evidence of a route whereby a Gulf carrier directly ‘drove out’ a US airline.

American is yet to specify any violation of the existing Open Skies agreements between Qatar and the US, but is instead keen to continue the rhetoric of ‘Qatar Are Stealing American Jobs By Flying All Over The World’.

For those familiar with this decade-long dispute, you may remember a Delta Air Lines-led campaign against the Gulf carriers, including this (propaganda) video —

Do I think Qatar Airways will leave oneworld alliance? 

No, I do not think we’ll see Qatar Airways withdraw from oneworld, purely because it makes better business sense to remain a member. Qatar is an investor in British Airways, Iberia, Cathay Pacific, and LATAM  — all of which are in the oneworld alliance.

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Qatar is also a super-connector airline, using its hub at Doha’s Hamad International Airport as a gateway to the world, and oneworld membership ensures passengers are able to easily connect to & from Qatar Airways operated flights.

Final Thought

While I do not think we will see Qatar Airways leave oneworld, I understand why the CEO is threatening to do so. Al Baker clearly isn’t happy with oneworld continuing to allow American Airlines (a fellow member) to attack Qatar Airways so publicly, especially when the attacks and accusations are as generic as ‘the airline is state-owned, and so this hurts Amerian jobs’.

State-owned airlines are not a ‘new threat’ to private airlines, and if American Airlines executives are so concerned with the idea of a country’s government money funding an airline, why are they not attacking Saudia Airlines, Oman Air, Air India, Finnair, Singapore Airlines, Kuwait Airways, among others?

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