Wow: American Airlines Eats Its Words, Will Codeshare With Qatar Airways And May Fly To Doha

American Airlines announced a new strategic partnership with Qatar Airways.

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.

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. This is a smart move. AA and OneWorld are the only US/Alliance airlines with the potential of tapping into the middle eastern market. There is a lot of positives to be said about that. Maybe AA can pick up some service tips too. Imagine what an AA flight with Qatar style service would do in the US?

  2. What in the AActual F.

    Definitely didn’t see this coming. Did Al Baker and Dougie both step down as respective CEOs in this process also?

  3. I guess they realized that they were getting their but kicked by Delta via the losing of Lantam.

  4. Having flown in business class between the U.S. , Doha and beyond with QR and Europe with AA, I wonder why anyone would willingly opt for AA for any reason other than a much lower price on AA?

  5. @Cool Breeze

    What much lower price on AA? QR does fare sales pretty frequently, and Saver availability on AA is non-existent, so it’s news to me that AA undercuts QR on price by any measure.

  6. This:

    “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.”

    That’s it, all of it, nothing more explains this.

  7. I hope this closer arrangement doesn’t end up meaning more award fee surcharges —whether or not they are called fuel surcharges, carrier surcharges or whatever other scam charge — when looking at redeeming AA miles for QR flights.

    Hoping is not the same thing as expecting.

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