Oneworld Alliance Set to Add Qatar Airways as First Gulf Carrier
By James Shillinglaw
October 08, 2012 10:36 PM
Qatar Airways will become the first Gulf carrier to join an airline alliance when it joins the oneworld alliance next year. Top executives from Qatar Airways, American Airlines, British Airlines and oneworld made the announcement at a press conference at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York City on Oct. 8.
Those executives included Akbar Al Baker, Qatar Airways CEO; Tom Horton, American Airlines’ chairman and CEO, who also serves as chairman of the oneworld governing board; Willie Walsh, chief executive of IAG, parent of British Airways and Iberia; and Bruce Ashby, CEO of oneworld. oneworld airlines include airberlin, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines. LAN, Qantas, Royal Jordanian and S7 Airlines. Expected to join soon are Malaysia Airlines and SriLankan Airlines.
Qatar Airways, which has been named Airline of the Year for the past two years by the Skytrax independent airline quality rating agency, is the first of the three major airlines based in the Gulf to sign with a global airline alliance. The other major carriers in the region include Emirates and Eitihad Airways. Qatar Airways also is the second largest full-service airline in the world that had not aligned itself with one of the major airline alliances until now. The airline, based in Doha, Qatar, is expected become a full member of oneworld in the next 12 to 18 months.
Qatar Airways also is set to move into a new home in 2013 with the opening of the new Doha International Airport, designed as a premium global hub with an eventual capacity for 50 million passengers a year. As a member of oneworld, Qatar Airways will be part of a group that includes American Airlines, British Airways, Japan Airlines. British Airways served as oneworld sponsor for Qatar Airways, which will be the second member airline based in the Middle East along with Royal Jordanian, which became the first airline from the region to join any of the global alliances when it joined Oneworld in 2007.
In just 15 years of operations, Qatar Airways has built up an international route network flying to key business and leisure destinations worldwide. Its network serves 120 destinations in 70 countries in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, North and South America, Asia and Australasia, including oneworld hubs in Amman, Berlin Tegel, Buenos Aires Ezeiza, Hong Kong, London Heathrow, Madrid, Melbourne, Moscow Domodedovo, New York JFK, Osaka Kansai, Sydney, Tokyo Narita, and the Kuala Lumpur home of oneworld member-elect Malaysia Airlines.
Fifteen of Qatar Airways’ destinations and three countries -- Iran, Rwanda and the Seychelles -- will be new destinations for oneworld. The airline also will substantially strengthen oneworld’s customer offering by providing superior routing alternatives across many hundreds of city pairs. For example, passengers flying between Asia and Southern Europe or between Asia and Africa will now have one-stop connections not previously available within the oneworld network.
Qatar Airways also operates one of the world’s youngest and most modern fleets, including 111 Boeing and Airbus aircraft with an average age of just four years. With the addition of Qatar Airways, oneworld will now feature 856 destinations in 159 countries, served by a combined fleet of 2,600 aircraft operating more than 9,300 flights and carrying almost a million passengers every day (342 million a year). Combined, airlines in the alliance generate annual revenues of nearly $120 billion.
Qatar Airways already code-shares with oneworld member designate Malaysia Airlines. It will develop bilateral links with more airlines in the alliance as it moves towards becoming a member of the group. Two established oneworld member airlines currently serve its Doha home -- British Airways from its London hub and Royal Jordanian from its Amman hub -- along with member-elect SriLankan, from its Colombo hub.
When Qatar Airways becomes part of oneworld, the 2.2 million members of its Privilege Club frequent-flyer program will be able to earn and redeem rewards on any of Oneworld’s other carriers, with top tier members able to use any of the group’s 550 plus airport lounges, and its network will be covered by oneworld’s range of alliance fares. At the same time, the 125 million frequent-flyer cardholders of oneworld’s established airlines will be able to earn and redeem rewards when flying on Qatar Airways and access the airline’s lounges.
“Alliances are playing an increasingly important role in the airline industry today – and that will continue long into the future,” said Qatar’s Al Bakar. “Qatar Airways has carefully reviewed its strategic options and it is very clear that joining oneworld is by far the best way forward for us as we look to strengthen our competitive offering and give passengers what they fully deserve -- more choice. Like Qatar Airways, oneworld is focused on quality and providing the best connections between the places most important to today’s frequent international travelers.”
At the same time, Al Bakar said his airlines membership in oneworld represented recognition of the growing strength of Gulf carriers in world aviation. “In Qatar Airways’ relatively short history, we have quickly established a reputation for innovation, quality and excellence in everything we do, raising standards which our industry peers have watched with envy,” he said. “We are pleased to build on that by becoming the only major airline from the Gulf to date to be invited to join any of the global airline alliances – and we are proud to have been invited to join the best of them, in oneworld.”
When asked if Qatar Airways move to join oneworld would spur other Gulf carriers to join airline alliances, Al Bakar noted that Etihad had tried to upstage Qatar Airways’ announcement by unveiled a new link with Delta-KLM, a member of the Skyteam alliance. Perhaps betraying the highly competitive aviation market in the Gulf region, Al Bakar said: “Etihad preempted this announcement by announcing a relationship with SkyTeam…..but we always go for people who are goldsmiths not for people who are scrap dealers.”
For his part, American’s Horton said quality has always been the hallmark of oneworld, so it was pleased to welcome another one of the world’s highest quality airlines. “oneworld aims to be the first choice alliance for frequent international travelers the world over,” he said. “Adding Qatar Airways will significantly improve our connectivity between many of the destinations that are most important to those customers, so today’s agreement with Qatar Airways will enable us to offer even more value.”
IAG’s Walsh said Qatar Airways would enhance oneworld’s network and product offerings in one of the world’s fastest growing regions for air travel demand. “Its fine reputation for customer service mirrors oneworld’s own focus,” he said. “British Airways is delighted to be serving as the sponsor of Qatar Airways in joining oneworld.”
oneworld’s Ashby said the big three Gulf carriers have been embraced by millions of consumers the world over, just as consumers have embraced global airline alliances. “Our own analysis clearly demonstrated that Qatar Airways is the best fit for oneworld’s network, requirements, philosophy and strategy,” he said. “oneworld is delighted to be the first of the global alliances to welcome a member airline from this region, enabling us to be the first to offer consumers the services and benefits offered by both a global alliance and a Gulf carrier. oneworld’s flexible approach to bilateral cooperation with carriers outside our alliance means that links already established between our member airlines with other carriers from this region may continue in tandem with Qatar Airways’ addition to oneworld, further strengthening the choice and convenience we collectively offer our customers.”