American Airlines and Qatar Airways announced a new codeshare relationship this morning and talked about the possibility of American flying to Doha. This comes after American unilaterally severed its codeshares with Qatar in 2017 as it pursued a political quest to get the federal government to place limits on the Middle Eastern airline’s flying to the U.S.
American made one of the most disingenuous cases I’ve seen in all of politics, and for consistency in making that case they stopped partnering with Qatar except through the oneworld alliance. That meant giving up feed from India, Pakistan and failing to take advantage of feed into Africa. It was a truly ugly, xenophobic campaign.
Partnering again with Qatar is a huge reversal, but after President Obama refused to go along with the American, Delta, and United campaign against the big Gulf airlines President Trump slammed the door on them too.
Nonetheless, Parker has the challenge of reversing course after everything he’s said about the existential threat Qatar Airways posed to his airline. So how is he explaining the flip flop? He penned a letter to employees:
In addition to the recently announced relationships with Gol and Alaska Airlines, today we will be announcing that American and Qatar Airways, a premier carrier and member of oneworld in the Arabian Peninsula will establish a strategic partnership, beginning with the creation of a new codeshare agreement. Following the restoration of the codeshare, American will begin exploring the addition of service from the U.S. to Qatar’s hub at Hamad International Airport (DOH) in Doha.
We can’t announce today’s news with Qatar Airways without acknowledging there have been differences between our airlines. However, during the past several months the dialogue has been good, and we have agreed that we can move forward and begin a new chapter.
Last month marked the two year anniversary of the landmark understanding between the U.S. and Qatari governments to preserve Open Skies. Our previous partnership with Qatar Airways was dormant during this time while we worked to ensure a level playing field in the Middle East for U.S. carriers. We are grateful to the Trump Administration and our bipartisan supporters in Congress for their willingness to protect American workers and pleased with the progress that has been made. While work remains, the issues that existed betwen American Airlines and Qatar Airways have now been addressed.
In other words, we’ve always been at war with Eastasia.
- American got nothing of value out of its campaign against the Gulf airlines. Qatar agreed to publicly share Western-style financials, and said that though they are permitted to operate fifth freedom flights (such as between Europe and the U.S.) they didn’t intent to at the time.
- And Trump’s involvement amounted to putting down airline CEO Doug Parker over his company’s share price, before deciding not to take action.
Parker previously said Qatar Airways flying to the U.S. was bad for American jobs. That was silly – US Airways shed employee pensions in bankruptcy, Parker did nothing to make good on those when the airline returned to profitability. One of the two major issues of contention with its mechanics over the past year was that American wanted more outsourcing.
Still, whatever issues existed before still exist – except American has realized that cutting off partnerships versus exploiting their potential was a counterproductive strategy.