Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways, is not one to mince his words. Since October 2018, Al Baker has been threatening to leave Oneworld, which Qatar Airways joined in 2013. The CEO of Qatar Airways has indicated his frustration following thinly veiled hostility from American Airlines and Qantas. At a press conference in New York, Akbar Al Baker blasted the negative attitude of American Airlines, which in 2017 prevented Qatar Airways from acquiring 10% of its capital, ended its code-sharing agreement with Qatar Airways despite the alliance’s rules, and has been accusing the airline (as well as other Gulf airlines) to receive unfair government subsidies.
Besides, the relationship between Qatar Airways and Qantas, another Oneworld alliance, has reached a new low last week as Qatar Airways’s CEO, citing a letter he said Australian partner Qantas had sent to staff, publicly accused Qantas of failing to act “in the spirit” of the alliance by lobbying against Qatar Airways getting more flight rights into Australia.
“I don’t see any point in us continuing to stay a part of Oneworld when other partners see us as a threat”, Al Baker said at an event in Spain last week, as reported by Bloomberg.
“If they decide to leave, it is because it is no longer working for them. Nobody should be in an alliance where they believe its not working for them. If Qatar feel they do better outside of Oneworld, that is up to them.” said the CEO of Qantas Alan Joyce last week in South China Morning Post.
Qantas has an extensive joint venture partnership with Emirates Airlines, Qatar arch-rival, and sends many of its passengers through the Dubai hub.
The departure of Qatar Airways could therefore be achieved in 2019 but many experts believe that the move could be followed by the creation of Qatar Airways’s own alliance. Here is why:
- Qatar Airways owns 20% of IAG. The Anglo-Spanish multinational airline holding company is the sixth largest airline in the world. It operates Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia, Vueling and Norwegian Air;
- Qatar Airways owns 10% of LATAM Airlines, the largest airline in Latin America;
- Qatar Airways owns 9.6% of Cathay Pacific, the world’s tenth largest airline measured in terms of sales and the world’s largest international cargo airline; Cathay Pacific itself a member of Oneworld, has long be rumored to envision leaving Oneworld.
- Qatar Airways owns 49% of Air Italy which is the 2nd largest airline in Italy and that could soon become Italy’s largest airline, following the investment by Qatar Airways.
Qatar Airways has therefore what it takes to launch its own alliance that could be an attractive option for business travelers.
Qatar Airways to leave Oneworld in 2019?
Senior industry insiders have commented that this latest escalation may be the final straw, and say Qatar Airways may leave Oneworld after a meeting of its 13 airline members in New York in early December.
Qatar Airways currently flies between Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide and Perth and its hub Doha, where it connects to a large number of destinations in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Qatar Airways, whose business class has received several awards, offers attractive prices for long-haul destinations, particularly in business class, with prices as low as US$1,000 for a return ticket between Europe and Australia.
Oneworld, which has 13 core members, is one of the big three global airline alliance.