Can Air Berlin Remain a Member of oneworld?

This afternoon there will be a significant announcement from oneworld, which most expect will be at least a partial joining on Qatar into the alliance.

If true, no doubt this was pushed along by Qantas’ severing some existing ties with British Airways over Australia – Europe connections and working closely with Emirates instead. That left BA in the cold and the Chairman of that oneworld carrier has frequently spoken positively of Qatar.

But as I’ve pointed out in the past, an alliance with Qatar is slightly inconvenient given the relationship that has been building between EmiratesEtihad and oneworld members Air Berlin and American.

Etihad owns nearly a 30% stake in Air Berlin, and has a frequent flyer relationship with American. And of course is a fierce competitor with Qatar.

Now Reuters is reporting that Air France KLM, Air Berlin, and Etihad will announce a codesharing relationship today — supposed “the deal will be the first phase of a much larger strategic partnership.”

Air France-KLM, Air Berlin and Abu Dhabi flag carrier Etihad, plan to offer passengers access to some of each other’s services from October 28 in a sign of improving relations between European and Gulf carriers.

A code-share deal with Franco-Dutch airline Air France-KLM will enable Etihad customers to fly on KLM’s daily Amsterdam-Abu Dhabi flight, while Air France customers will be able to travel on the daily Etihad service between Paris and Abu Dhabi, Air France-KLM said in a statement.

At the same time, Air France announced a new code share agreement with Air Berlin, in which Etihad Airways holds a 29.21 percent stake.

Does this foreshadow Etihad joining Skyteam? Can Air Berlin maintain codeshare relatioships with Air France KLM while it remains a oneworld partner of British Airways?

It’s certainly interesting times for shifting alliances as the mega Middle East carriers pick sides.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. thanks for the news! Small typo ”

    relationship that has been building between Emirates and oneworld members Air Berlin and American”

    Think you meant Etihad

  2. The one thing I am thinking Gary and not sure you agree is are the traditional 3 alliances really that strategically important going forward? To me they are a product of the 1990s and so much has changed since then it is not even funny, let alone relevant to today. Is the future not more of these smaller more targeted alliances, some of which will have some crossover, and not that every move leads to XY airline joining Star, OneWorld or SkyTeam? Given this specific example, I see no reason why an Etihad, Air France and Air Berlin partnership means they would join SkyTeam. Yes Etihad likely want an American partnership, but it is not necessarily so they think Delta is the right one. Why not just form an alliance like they have with AA or whoever they think they can get the best deal with? To me, the Qantas/Emirates deal signified the first BIG step in airlines moving away from the large global alliance model.

  3. @Phil – I don’t see a Star crackup. They’re pretty tightly wound. Oneworld on the other hand isn’t nearly as integrated, though there are joint business ventures.

    My point with Etihad… can Air Berlin codeshare with Air France/KLM and remain an alliance partner with BA? Perhaps. Can Qatar effectively join oneworld while Etihad maintains their American partnership? Perhaps, but if Air Berlin moves towards Air France and Etihad links up with Air France, would Etihad get closer to Skyteam given the allegiances of their home competitor Qatar?

    It’s ALL speculative.

    I disagree that the alliances lack relevance going forward, but in many cases perhaps the alliance model has gone as far as it can (at the point where PAL is looking to link up with an alliance, Sri Lankan already had…). And perhaps some smaller linkups are likely going forward.

    And of course no one has yet cracked the Indian market.

    Interesting times!

  4. By: Edward Russell Washington DC
    13 minutes ago

    Qatar Airways plans to join the Oneworld alliance within the next 18 months, after being elected as a member designate by the alliance’s other members.

    The Doha-based airline will be the alliance’s 15th member, including fellow member designates Malaysia Airlines and SriLankan Airlines, and second in the Middle East after Royal Jordanian.

    Qatar’s entrance into Oneworld could raise pressure on the Persian Gulf’s two other major unaligned carriers, Emirates and Etihad. Etihad has recently signed a codeshare deal with Air France and KLM, both SkyTeam members. Emirates has remained outspoken as an opponent of the three global airline alliances.

    Qatar chief executive Akbar Al Baker made the announcement with other Oneworld member airline chief executives in New York today.

    “Alliances are playing an increasingly important role in the airline industry today–and that will continue long into the future,” he says. “Qatar Airways has carefully reviewed its strategic options and it is very clear that joining Oneworld is by far the best way forward.”

    Qatar brings 15 new destinations and three new countries to the Oneworld map.

  5. JAL is a big partner of Air France, so that doesn’t necessarily preclude Air Berlin from staying in Oneworld.

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