Qatar Expected to Join oneworld Alliance

There’s been lots of speculation of a Middle East carrier joining the oneworld alliance.

  • Etihad is a frequent flyer partner of American, and owns a stake in oneworld carrier Air Berlin
  • Qatar’s relationship with United has been terminated, and there’s been some public comment by British Airways’ Chairman about the desirability of a tie-up with Qatar
  • Emirates has a new strong relationship with oneworld airline Qantas, though at the expense of the Qantas relationship with British Airways and even Cathay Pacific, my own sense was that Emirates was the least likely to get closer to oneworld overall

The speculation has intensified in the past weeks, and now it’s being predicted that Qatar will join oneworld in an announcement slated for October 8.

Oneworld will hold an event announcing a “significant membership development” on 8 October, coming amidst widely-reported discussions with Qatar Airways about joining the alliance.

The event will be held in New York and includes Bruce Ashby, chief executive of Oneworld, Tom Horton, chairman and chief executive of American Airlines, and Willie Walsh, chief executive of International Airlines Group (IAG), according to documents obtained by Flightglobal.

It would be a huge coup to add a Middle Eastern carrier to an alliance, and intensify pressure on the other alliances to court Emirates and Etihad.

Qatar offers excellent premium cabin products, and excellent award availability. Their US – Doha routes have business class as the forward cabin, some European routes still offer a first class.

The Middle East is a natural transit point for travel to Central Asia, such as the Maldives. American award rules won’t permit transit via the Middle East to Africa, however, though it’s as logical a connection point in many cases as Western Europe.

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. While there were a few minor snags with *A booking due to this being the waning months of their partnership, my wife and I enjoyed QR in C flying from VCE-DOH-SEZ in July using UA miles for the multi-carier itinerary. It was great, safe and seemless in every way. Plus the lounges at DOH were spectacular and basically everyone in that country does everything for you except breathe.

    It will be interesting to see how things go with them now part of OW, and since we loved QRs service and quality, I may need to start ramping up those AA miles we need more of!

  2. Nice. I missed out on their product with *A. I wonder if this goes through will it change/influence the author of the Time article on AA and Horton. He qrote that OW was a lesser program than both SA and ST. SA you can argue but ST?

  3. Lets not get carried away.

    If one reads what the article says, the only suggestion that this pertains to Qatar seems to be coming from the author.

    This membership announcement could just as easily be, for example, about TAM joining OneWorld. Indeed, with pending uncertainty around the EK-QF deal, I would expect the announcement to be about anything but the entry of a Middle East carrier.

  4. @Checkerboard: Although I’d assume that a OW insider leaked the information for it to be published on a reputable (AFAIK) source like Flightglobal, you’re correct in that until it’s official we don’t really know. And, yes, there is the lingering possibility of a JJ announcement.

    @Gary: If the news is true, however, I wonder what will happen to the AA/EY relationship. Just thinking out loud — I sure hope that continues, though it would be awkward/unlikely…

  5. I can see some concern AA might have with middle east transfers for NA to, say West Africa. But NA to East Africa seems a bit silly. To the extent AA wants to prevent award bookings from NA to West Africa with transfer in the Middle East, should maximum permitted mileage provisions provide ample protection?

  6. FWIW, OW already has RJ, but you make it sound like they don’t currently have a partner in the region. Qatar or Etihad or Emirates would be nice additions, but it’s not like you can’t transit the Middle East currently. RJ serves much of the area along with some destinations in Europe and North Africa.

  7. @Jacob yes RJ is a member, it’s the Emirates/Qatar/Etihad combo that have been reluctant to join an alliance so far. American even also has a partnership with Gulf Air…

  8. This is huge if true. Qatar has a much better business class product than Emirates – the main downside has always been lack of EQM on those long flights (you could until recently get UA miles but not for status).

  9. Not to be pedantic, but Maldives are in South Asia, not Central Asia. Central Asia refers to the “-stan” countries, mostly. South Asia is the Indian subcontinent, which includes the Maldives.

    I do hope that AA will change the award chart to allow connections in the ME for South Asia. There’s no good reason not to allow it.

  10. **Not** so fast:

    (Reuters) – Qatar Airways has no plans to join the oneworld airline alliance, its Chief Executive Akbar al-Baker said on Sunday, dismissing reports that the airline had become the newest member of the group as “rumor.”

    Asked if the carrier would join oneworld, which includes British Airways, owned by IAG (ICAG.L), Baker said: “No, we will not. It’s all rumors.”

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