Last updated: 07:00 PM ET, Fri September 30 2016

The British Airways / Qatar Airways Codeshare: What Does It Mean for Passengers?

Airlines & Airports | Paul Thompson | September 30, 2016

The British Airways / Qatar Airways Codeshare: What Does It Mean for Passengers?

British Airways and Qatar Airways announced this week a joint business in the form of a codeshare for each others’ passengers — but how does that affect passengers, other than making their flight connections more convenient?

The two airlines fly a lot of common fleet types, such as Airbus A320-series aircraft. But that’s about where the similarities end. Their cabins are not equipped the same. Passengers familiar with the seat-back video entertainment and Wi-Fi availability on most of Qatar’s planes are bound to be disappointed to find out that most of British Airways short-haul fleet doesn’t offer inflight entertainment or Wi-Fi.

Even the seats themselves are noticeably different. Most of Qatar’s single-aisle fleet have economy seats with 31 inches of seat pitch, while British Airways A320s in European configuration only offer 30 inches.

What about the service amenities? On Thursday, British Airways announced the end of free meal service on short-haul flights in economy class. Granted, this is something domestic U.S. carriers haven’t offered for many years, but Qatar’s customers will be in for a shock because they’re offered full meal service on every flight. The British Airways news made waves on social media Thursday, because the airline seems to be intent on paring back some of the things people had become used to.

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On Twitter, British Airways told me, “Based on customer feedback, we’re proud to partner with another great British brand, Marks & Spencer, to enable customers to purchase great food from a brand they recognize on short-haul flights from Jan. 11, 2017.” For an airline whose motto is “To Fly, To Serve” the buy onboard option seems like quite a step in the wrong direction as even United Airlines is offering free snacks onboard flights once again. British Airways CEO Alex Cruz said passengers had asked for a wider choice of premium options, which drove this decision. Although the menu is being slashed, passengers won’t see that savings passed on to their pocketbooks when making flight reservations.

Although the ticket prices will be similar, the services between the two airlines are completely imbalanced. As a passenger, I'd pick Qatar every time over British Airways on the same route. It will be interesting to see if Qatar’s twenty percent ownership in British Airways’ parent company IAG comes into play here, to make the passenger experience more seamless on these shared routes.

The codeshare begins Oct. 30, to link flights between the UK, Asia, Middle East and Africa. Qatar Airways also owns twenty percent of British Airways parent company, IAG. Qatar is rumored to be close to placing a large order for Boeing wide body jets, including 777 and 787s, which will allow it to add new destinations or add new frequencies to current destinations. 


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