Why can’t we be friends?
Qatar Airways has a knack for turning heads, and so does their mercurial CEO. The airline has pushed the flying experience to new heights, bringing modern planes to destinations around the world and private suites to business class, as well as enhanced wifi. Qatar Airways has been a member of the OneWorld airline alliance for 5 years now, yet tricky airline politics has made the partnership more of an idea than a reality, at least according to Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker, and he wants out.
If you live on the internet, you’ve likely heard the term frenemy. A frenemy is a supposed friend that’s really in fact an enemy. As reported by FlightGlobal, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker claims that OneWorld airlines American Airlines and Qantas have worked against Qatar, despite the supposed alliance.For that reason, he wants out. Airline alliances, such as OneWorld, allow travelers a wider variety of route and airline connectivity options, all while earning points and enjoying travel perks. These alliances help to streamline passenger journeys and open up more parts of the world. They generally bring strong partnerships and tie ins between member airlines.
October 19, 2018 Update
On October 18th, Qatar Airways told U.S. media that the airline would consider leaving OneWorld “soon” if a list of ultimatums delivered to the alliance were not met. Akbar Al Baker also noted plans for the airline to privatize within the next decade. Government ownership has been a point of contention for other airlines, but the CEO was quick to point out that many airlines, such as British Airways and Lufthansa were once state owned. In fact, for decades.
Qatar Chairman & CEO Akbar Al Baker claims that American Airlines has worked to lobby against Qatar Airways and other outside competition at the highest levels of the U.S. Government. At the same time, they’ve been spending millions in slander campaigns against the airline and other Gulf carriers. For what it’s worth, his take is entirely accurate in this regard and American, Delta and United even formed a lobbying group to thwart Qatar and other rival airlines. The effort was largely a failure, but caused irreparable damage.
As to Qantas, Qatar Airways is currently involved in a complicated political blockade with the nearby United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, and this blockade has soured Qatar’s relationship with the Australian airline. Qantas partners extensively with Emirates, which is a de facto rival and Qatar Airways enemy due to the blockade. The Qantas and Emirates partnership is said to have affected Qatar’s ability to expand in Australia and has only expanded since the blockade formed.
If everything CEO Akbar Al Baker said came to life, the airline world would be drastically different than its current reality. Will Qatar Airways leave the OneWorld alliance? It’s impossible to tell at this point, but these threats seem to carry more vigor than previous remarks. Even if they did leave, Qatar Airways would retain investments in IAG and 49% ownership of upstart Air Italy, which is proving wildly popular. As to the fate of OneWorld, Al Baker told Flight Global…
““This whole shenanigan has to stop, it has gone too far. If Qatar Airways leaves Oneworld it will send a very wrong message to the world about alliances. The whole idea behind an alliance is to work together to support each other like a family. But I don’t think that is any more the spirit of the alliance, especially since American Airlines is continuously targeting Qatar Airways, slandering Qatar Airways, giving misinformation to the US government about Qatar Airways. And now it is targeting our investment in Air Italy at very high level government interaction, claiming that we are cheating on the open-skies agreement that we signed with the US government.”
There’s certainly some passion in those words, and they’re not sending any mixed signals. Only time will tell, but there’s no question the status quo is in doubt.