American Airlines announced a new strategic partnership with Qatar Airways.
- Restoration of codesharing
- American will explore flying to Doha
- This pretty much puts to rest speculation about Qatar Airways leaving oneworld
American Airlines cut off its nose to spite its face by eliminating its Qatar Airways codeshare in 2017 and at the same time ending its codesharing with Etihad. They were all-in on what became a failed political effort to attack large Gulf airlines, transferring money from U.S. consumers to their own shareholders by limiting customer choice and raising fares.
At the time American claimed their codeshare with Qatar didn’t provide material value to the airline. I pointed out that immaterial is a technical term that isn’t the same as insignificant, and even there limited benefits were the result of failing to take advantage of the opportunity. Walking away from Gulf airline codeshares meant giving up feed from India, Pakistan and surrounding regions which they couldn’t duplicate elsewhere.
According to American’s CEO Doug Parker,
The issues that led to the suspension of our partnership two years ago have been addressed, and we believe resuming our codeshare agreement will allow us to provide service to markets that our customers, team members and shareholders value, including new growth opportunities for American Airlines. We look forward to the renewed cooperation between our airlines and hope to build an even stronger relationship with Qatar Airways over time.
Of course the way that American’s issues that they complained about from 2015 to 2019 were addressed first by President Obama paying them no mind, and then by President Trump ribbing Parker over the airline’s stock price “asking why it’s so low at a time when the stock market is surging.”
American, Delta, and United had complained that Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar shouldn’t be able to fly to the U.S., and then at least shouldn’t be able to fly routes between the U.S. and Europe, because of subsidies they’ve received from their governments (never mind the subsidies each U.S. carrier receives from ours). Finally they shifted focus to complain only about the existential threat of Air Italy, 49% owned by Qatar Airways, which collapsed under its own losses.
Just like American walked back severing ties with Alaska Airlines, doubling down on the partnership they’ve walked back severing ties with Qatar and are growing that partnership as well. Only given the mean-spirited diatribes out of American over the last 5 years it’s especially awkward for them to do so now.
Museum Of Islamic Art, Doha
Relations between the two airlines have been warming for months. This is not a sudden deicision that follows Air Italy’s bankruptcy.. For instance all Qatar departures at New York JFK have left from American’s terminal since mid-December.
With Qatar Airways increasing its ownership stake in American’s primary transatlantic partner British Airways (they’ve become a 25% owner of BA parent company IAG) it may have been difficult for American to sustain its enmity.
My only hope is that given the geopolitical tensions between Qatar and the UAE and its allies that this codeshare won’t be in lieu of American’s continuing to partner with Etihad. (And with Qatar clearly staying in oneworld, it’ll be interesting to see whether Alaska keeps its Emirates partnership as it joins the alliance.)
Regardless my genuine congratulations to Parker and team for having the humility to recognize their mistake, even this late, and to be willing to do what’s in the best interest of the airline.