It’s Official: Qatar to Join Oneworld

Here’s the press release.

So I guess when Qatar’s CEO emphatically denied that they were joining oneworld less than 10 days ago — “No, we will not. It’s all rumors” — that he was just lying.

The airline will be integrated into the alliance over the next 12 to 18 months.

Great news for the value of American Airlines miles, Qatar offers great business class award availability (and has first class cabins on a limited number of Europe – Doha routes) and an outstanding business class product.

Sadly within American’s program the Middle East — an amazing connection point for much of the world — is of limited usefulness. You can connect in Doha if you want to head to India and surrounding countries, or to the Middle East itself. But you’re not able to fly on to Northwest Africa without spending additional miles, nor can you connect in the Middle East enroute to Asia.

My predictions, I’m willing to put them here on the page so that I can be proven wrong, but I believe that:

  • British Airways will develop a joint venture with Qatar, possibly even between Europe and Australia (having just lost their arrangement with Qantas)
  • Air Berlin — owned nearly 30% by Etihad and entering into a strategic deal with Skyteam’s Air France KLM — will eventually leave oneworld.
  • There’s a non-zero chance that Etihad will eventually join Skyteam, and American will lose its frequent flyer relationship there as well.

Agree? Disagree?

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. Does this give us a Maldives option from LAX?

    Maybe they’ll publish a through fare LAX-MLE and save me some miles.

  2. Largely agree, though I think it’s hard on Al Baker to call him a liar. Ok so yes he did lie, and that makes him a liar, but anything along the lines of “no comment” is just reported as a tacit “yes” so I am not sure he had much choice. I have dealt with journalists myself and it has not left a good taste in my mouth.

    On your predictions I would say Agree but the last one on a technicality. I think the chances of Etihad joining SkyTeam are non zero, but I would not put them that high. I think Etihad and Emirates will continue to live outside the alliance world, they have the muscle to do so.

    I agree that Qatar and BA (and I guess Iberia) will form some deeper JV to compete with Qantas/Emirates. And that will be quite some competition. The other prediction I will make here is that Qantas will leave OneWorld within the next two years as a result of all these changes.

    So who else? Oh, Air Berlin. Seriously, not sure anybody actually cares? I think they are an Etihad toy. Not sure of their relevance in current form. But I guess you are right there is a logical place for them in SkyTeam

  3. @beachfan – yes Qatar publish fares from most US destinations to MLE so this will fix the annoying restriction with Etihad. But remember it’s going to be 12-18+ months before this actually happens.

  4. @Phil – Al-Baker could have said, “We’re always looking at our strategic options, but fundamentally believe our current business strategy is a sound one. While we’ve talked to all of the alliances, we haven’t made any deals with any of them at this time.” And that would have likely been true, that final paperwork hadn’t been signed, etc. Instead of, you know, ACTUALLY lying…. Maybe it was the best strategy to lie, but if that’s the case then I think it’s also fair for me to SAY that he lied.

    The thing about Qantas though — I don’t see them forced out of oneworld. And I do think they value the American Airlines partnership for US feed. So not sure they’ll leave. And if they did I would expect a continued relationship with a US carrier — and I would expect that carrier to be American (though wouldn’t NECESSARILY be American, it COULD be Delta though Delta does fly to Australia on its own).

  5. Gary, I agree with you on your predictions. According to Skytrax, Qatar is a 5 star airline but both Etihad and Emirates are rated 4-stars. What’s your take on Etihad and Emirates?

  6. @Gary — I agree with your predictions. On the EY/SkyTeam one, I think the chances are non-zero, yes, but I think the chances are bigger for them to remain independent (and just forge alliances) than to actually join SkyTeam. In any case, I really pray that they will maintain their AA relationship, though I’m obviously skeptical…

    @Phil — Al Baker did lie, flat out. He was annoying about it, too, which makes it worse. He should have just ducked the question or said that they were talking to all 3 alliances or something similar (like EY’s Hogan does).

  7. Phil: concerning Air Berlin. Perhaps nobody cares on the US side, but if you’re looking at the European (and more so the German) market, you will see that Air Berlin is trying to be a player. Their problem is that they cannot decide whether to be a loco airline which is competing with EasyJet, or a normal airline competing with Lufthansa. But in either case, they are very much relevant for a significant fraction of the central European leisure market.

  8. @Gavin I don’t put too much stock in Skytrax. I’ll fly Etihad for the first time on an upcoming trip, in both business and first. Will report back for sure. I have a hard time with the claim that Qatar is meaningfully better than the other Middle Eastern mega-carriers. But as I say I haven’t got the personal experience yet to say.

  9. Yeah you guys are right. I was trying to play devil’s advocate but he did I guess flat out lie about it.

    I do wonder if Emirates will pressure Qantas to cut ties given the competition from BA/Qatar. It simply would not make any common sense to have Qatar and BA in one corner and Emirates and Qantas in the other corner and expect them to play in the same playground.

    Of course the other question here is who knows what American will look like in the 12-18 months it will take to get there? There is still plenty of time in that movie for some unexpected plot twists. If they are still around I hope they revamp their award rules. These certainly are outdated in relation to their current and future partnerships

  10. What is the easiest way to check if a certain carrier has a published fare between a pair of cities?

  11. @Gary: DL and QF? Unlikely since DL has a joint venture with QF’s biggest domestic competitor.

    As to the AA award routing rules, one would think that AA might have to start reducing the number of regions in which they forbid connections. DOH will make the most sense (or as much sense as LHR) for certain destinations. As further evidence, Europe-South Pacific will need to allow connections in Middle East because of QF routing through DXB instead of SIN, especially if BA decides to team up with QR and go via DOH instead of SIN.

  12. Oh I am NOT predicting QF/DL. I’m predicting QF/AA continues. The DL problem isn’t just the Virgina Australia tie-up but also the Delta flights to Australia though likely not enough to justify a joint venture. But QF would be a far more attractive dance partner to DL than Virgin.

  13. AAB’s entire public facade is based upon lies and deceit. Anybody who has ever dealt with him knows it and weights anything he says accordingly.

    Don’t even assume that this means that QR will eventually join Oneworld. It is just leverage for AAB to use against the OW carriers while he negotiates with others behind their back.

  14. AA miles may be the best way (of all the US programs) to get to Male. Would prefer Emirates. Is JAL the best option for Emirates?

  15. Where does Star Alliance end up in this battle for the Middle East carriers? Do they brazen it out on their own, hoping that between Lufthansa (and affiliates), some South Asian airline, and the East Aisian partners they can do without.. or will they accept a mideast airline eventually?

  16. Qatar is great for flying to India which I do often. UA ended their partnership with Qatar recently but US still has theirs. How long do you see that lasting? I am trying to decide if I want to get more US Air miles in the current buy and share promos. That is the only valuable redemption for me on US Air.

  17. @Nerd Traveler – Qatar redemption hasn’t been available with US Airways miles for years, for the past 3 years the award chart has said it’s “temporarily not available”

  18. @bassclef – they haven’t been unwilling to accept a Middle East airline, the good ones haven’t been willing to join an alliance until now

  19. @bassclef @Gary

    Wouldn’t Turkish Airlines be the best chance for Star Alliance to counter the Middle Eastern carriers joining up in these partnerships?

  20. @MidTierStatus – If that happened, DL would find a way to devalue them rather quickly.

  21. air berlin is a great way to stack up cheap segments for AAdvantage. however i’d be thrilled if they leave one world. since bmi was swallowed by ba and air berlin joined one world, the cost of flights between berlin and london has almost doubled. one world has a complete monopoly on nonstops.

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