Qatar Airways’ threats to withdraw from the oneworld alliance due to ‘ongoing attacks’ from partner airlines (including American Airlines) are strengthening.
Qatar Airways CEO, Akbar Al Baker has repeated: “Qatar’s commitment to the oneworld alliance has diminished as we are constantly being attacked by a oneworld partner” — however, since this statement, the ‘dispute’ among oneworld members has intensified.
Australian flag carrier and oneworld alliance member airline, Qantas, has internally criticised Qatar Airways for wanting to expand into Australia.
Qatar Airways operates direct flights from Doha to Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide and Perth, and the airline has been attempting to launch flights to Brisbane. However, Qantas – which has a formal partnership with UAE airline, Emirates — has been lobbying against any Qatari expansion in Australia, claiming the airline is “dumping capacity, being uncommercial and uncompetitive” — a potentially questionable accusation, given Qantas has not lobbied against the other Gulf carriers (Emirates and Etihad Airways), of whom have a wider presence in the Australian market.
Qatar Airways’ further expansion in Australia depends on the Australian government expanding traffic rights to the main capital cities, which are limited. Australia’s position against further Qatari expansion has been applauded by Qantas and Virgin Australia, and their UAE partners Emirates and Etihad Airways — of whom are Gulf rivals to Qatar Airways, and belong to the UAE — a country currently blocking the State of Qatar.
The CEO of Qantas told Hong Kong-based media that “If Qatar Airways feel they [would] do better outside of Oneworld, that is up to them,” before adding that “Qantas’ partnership with Emirates would mean his passengers would not be affected by Qatar’s exit.”
While Al Baker notes that Qatar Airways could very well exit the oneworld alliance, he’s since highlighted the potential to form a new ‘alliance’, given the equity stakes Qatar Airways holds in various airlines worldwide.
Al Baker highlighted “Qatar Airways will be interested in other investments soon that will give us even more synergies to make our own alliance of this group.”
Qatar Airways has several key investments in airlines across the globe — many of whom are flag carriers. The airline owns a 49% stake in Air Italy, a 20% stake in the International Airlines Group: Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia, Level, & Vueling, a 10% stake in LATAM Airlines, and a 10% stake in Cathay Pacific.
While the Qatari carrier is already part of several codeshare partnerships with those airlines, the airline also owns key stakes in more significant joint-venture partnerships, which can often replicate some of the passenger benefits of being in an alliance.
Qatar Airways could use its financial presence in other carriers to secure and strengthen partnerships across the globe that would in turn reduce the effects of leaving the oneworld alliance, and result in a new ‘alliance’ of global airlines — many of whom are oneworld alliance members, and would be able to offer passengers the same flexibility and benefits outside of the alliance.
Al Baker admitted that “Alliances could become old-fashioned. They lost their steam because people want to protect their own interests. They were founded as groups to use other members to a mutual benefit, but it is not like that any more.”