American Airlines, which terminated its codesharing with oneworld partner Qatar Airways in 2017, announced plans to codeshare again with the Doha-based airline and said they’re ‘exploring’ new service to Doha.
One theory I’ve heard is that this service isn’t real, isn’t going to happen. But then what’s the point of teasing it? And American’s announcement of free inflight texting shows they have no problem making announcements and then not following through, acting as though the announcement never existed. So why so mum on the details for Doha?
Where Will American’s Doha Flight Fly From?
Qatar Airways is currently the only airline flying between the U.S. and Doha. American can fly there and connect passengers beyond Doha to points in India, Pakistan, and Africa.
However, American has argued that flights between the U.S. and Doha only make sense when they’re subsidized. There’s certainly no room to add service between cities with Doha flights already.
Let’s take a look at American’s hubs:
- New York JFK: Qatar Airways offers 2 daily flights
- Philadelphia: Qatar Airways offers 1 daily flight
- Chicago O’Hare: Qatar Airways offers 1 daily flight
- Charlotte: No service
- Miami: Qatar Airways offers 1 daily flight
- Dallas Fort-Worth: Qatar Airways offers 1 daily flight
- Phoenix: No service
- Los Angeles: Qatar Airways offers 1 daily flight
- Washington National: Cannot accept inbound international flights (without immigration pre-clearance) and short runways limit widebody departures
There’s no way that service makes sense Phoenix – Doha or Charlotte – Doha and those are the only two possible American Airlines hubs without service. That leaves two possibilities:
- American takes over a route currently operated by Qatar Airways
- American flies Seattle – Doha
Why Seattle – Doha Could Make Sense
Alaska Airlines is joining oneworld, and will provide feed to American Airlines long haul flights, as well as a base of corporate and loyal individual customers. That’s how American is able to plan Seattle – Bangalore and Seattle – London Heathrow flights.
Currently Alaska partners with Emirates, and supports their once-daily Seattle – Dubai flight with onward connections around India, Pakistan, and elsewhere. As part of joining oneworld, Alaska Airlines could drop Emirates in favor of Qatar.
American might then launch Seattle – Doha. They’d have the Alaska feed (for destinations other than Dubai itself), and they would likely have subsidies from the Qatari government. New routes are often subsidized.
Personally I’m giddy with excitement over the day American Airlines explains taking subsidies from the Qatari government, after spending four years arguing, and enlisting Newt Gingrich to argue, that these subsidies destroy the American free market system.
- American is getting Israel’s biggest-ever subsidy for its new Dallas Fort-Worth – Tel Aviv flight
- American has argued that the kind of flying Qatar does is only possible because of subsidies
- The Qatari government wants closer relations with the U.S., that included an ownership stake in American Airlines which American previously objected to.
- The Al Thanis might subsidize the flight just to troll Emirates. Qatar Airways and Emirates aren’t just competitors, but Qatar remains subject to a blockade by the U.A.E., Saudi Arabia and its allies. Even if a deal to end the blockade is close, as some have speculated, relations won’t have become warm.
Even if you think ‘Seattle – Doha isn’t as good a market as Seattle – Dubai’ between Alaska’s feed, potential Emirates loss of that feed, and subsidies from the Qataris, the route could be in American’s future.
Why American Didn’t Announce Their Plan
A Seattle flight would require Alaska to terminate its partnership with Emirates. That would need to be solidified before announcing the route. And a premature announcement would undermine American’s bargaining position over subsidies which might not be locked in yet, either.
Meanwhile if it’s merely one of Qatar’s flights that American takes over, there could still be discussions to finalize agreement about which route Qatar Airways drops.
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker with Donald and Melania Trump in 2007, via Doha News
Clearly American would want everything completely firmed up before making an announcement of anything concrete regarding Doha, considering that Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker doesn’t always follow through on his word and even spoke publicly about expecting the removal of American Airlines CEO Doug Parker as recently as October.