A few weeks ago, the CEO of Qatar Airways, Akbar Al Baker, did an interview with Richard Quest on CNN. One of the topics that he talked about was the potential for Qatar Airways to leave the oneworld alliance.
At the time, I didn’t report on it as Mr. Al Baker is known within the industry for bold statements that often aren’t followed up on.
However in the IAG Capital Markets day on Friday, Willie Walsh, the CEO of IAG said the following:
“I think it’s highly likely that Qatar will leave the oneworld alliance. I have had regular contact Akbar Al Baker on this issue. He doesn’t say these things without being genuinely behind the comments. He is annoyed at the way some oneworld members have responded, as alliance partners. I think this is a genuine threat”
Qatar owns 20% of the IAG group and also has stakes in a number of other oneworld airlines like LATAM and Cathay Pacific. They also tried to buy a stake in American Airlines, however the board refused the investment which is where this animosity may have stemmed from.
This got worse when they bought a 49% stake in Meridiana, and re-branded the airline as Air Italy, giving it some ex-Qatar Airways A330 aircraft effectively re-launching it as a serious trans-Atlantic airline, albeit with limited scope.
I suspect however even if Qatar Airways were to leave oneworld, that wouldn’t signal the end to the close co-operation that the IAG airlines and Qatar have. British Airways have a joint business agreement on some middle east flights with Qatar Airways and would expect this to continue.
What could end would be the relatively lucrative ways to get cheap tier points travelling on Qatar Airways flights from Europe to Asia. Whilst one is likely to still earn tier points on flights departing the UK, when booked under a BA code, but operated by QR. This would be unlikely to continue when there is no joint agreement with BA.
One to watch.