OneWorld to announce new airline member on October 8… could it be Qatar Airways?

Flightglobal reports:

Oneworld will hold an event announcing a “significant membership development” on 8 October, coming amidst widely-reported discussions with Qatar Airways about joining the alliance.

The event will be held in New York and includes Bruce Ashby, chief executive of Oneworld, Tom Horton, chairman and chief executive of American Airlines, and Willie Walsh, chief executive of International Airlines Group (IAG), according to documents obtained by Flightglobal.

Qatar has been linked to joining one of the big three alliances in the near future.

Flightglobal is a reputable source so this does seem to suggest that they have inside information that Qatar Airways will be joining OneWorld if everything goes as planned.

There’s no denying this would be huge. The three big “players” in the Middle East are typically considered to be Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar Airways, and while they’ve all formed extensive partnerships, we’ve yet to see any of them join one of the three big alliances. If one of the airlines joined it would almost certainly place pressure on the others to join one of the other alliances, which would be great for consumers.

That being said, I’m trying to rationalize Qatar Airways’ participation in OneWorld, and simply can’t:

  • American already has partnerships with Etihad and Gulf Air, and Royal Jordanian is in OneWorld, so they have the Middle East pretty well covered.
  • In the US, Qatar Airways would be a much better fit for the Star Alliance. They service Houston, New York, and Washington, only one of which is an American hub, so they gain very little in the US market.
  • Qantas and Emirates just announced a HUGE joint venture, whereby Qantas will be funneling many of their passengers through Dubai.

Don’t get me wrong, having Qatar Airways join OneWorld would be a huge win, though it seems like they’d be ruffling up a lot of feathers with this. I think Qatar Airways would have a lot more to gain by joining the Star Alliance given that most Star Alliance airlines don’t have major relationships with Middle Eastern carriers already. And this could be a loss for OneWorld, given that I can’t imagine Emirates would be too pleased about this, and wouldn’t be surprised if they force Qantas to leave OneWorld and form a fourth alliance as a result.

If one of the Middle Eastern airlines were to join OneWorld, it would make a lot more sense if it were Emirates (due to their huge new partnership with Qantas) or Etihad (given their partnership with some OneWorld carriers already).

What do you guys think? Am I off base? Think it will be Qatar Airways announced on the 8th, or a different airline?

(Tip of the hat to Gary)

Filed Under: Qatar
  1. Could it be TAM Airlines? Since after the merge with LAN they were told to withdraw themselves from Star Alliance.

  2. It’s a bit of a mixed bag. AA’s partnership, to be honest, is not deep, but the Qantas-Emirates deal is a big one deeply affecting Qatar’s entry into oneworld. But keep in mind Qatar’s CEO who wanted to be part of a business deal with Qantas recognized that Emirates is the stronger partner but indicated that he did not mind working with

    But when we look at the three airlines, Emirates is not likely to join an alliance based on its business practices and beliefs: it would prefer to go ahead itself or forge individual relationships with airlines; Etihad is not likely to join based on its practice of owning a portion of airlines around the world (and keep in mind its deep business relationship that involves ownership of Virgin Australia, a Qantas competitor); so Qatar is the most likely to join.

    When we look at individual alliances, Star Alliance is least likely to accept a Gulf-Carrier, given that it competes directly with Turkish and how Lufthansa is against Gulf-state carriers; SkyTeam is welcoming two new members Saudia and MEA; so oneworld is the only one left.

    Oneworld has never been as tight with its business as its competing alliances. Cathay Pacific has always went its own way. And now Qantas is going its own way with Emirates.

  3. A 4th alliance sounds cool, like Fox in the US trying to break in with the big 3 TV networks back in the early 90s.

  4. I agree with Lucky
    QR would have been ideal for *A, except that its former partner CO, now UA is competing directly with it
    EK would have been best as a major player in ST, until it all but acquired QF and changed the landscape (or the aeroscape).
    EY is due to own most of the Indian airline industry soon.

  5. I thought it would be Malaysia Airlines announcing their full integration…

    A fourth alliance? Be rather difficult if it really wants to compete with Star Alliance, Skyteam and Oneworld. Not sure whether the follow-up question should be “Who’s left?” or “Who’s going to defect?” or both.

  6. Nah, it’s totally got to be Spirit Airlines! 😉

    I’m not smart enough on global airline business to venture an educated guess.. Qatar sounds reasonable from what you’ve described at least. Will be interesting to see on the 8th

  7. I dont think Qatar will be joining any alliance for now…. but in order to get more access to Australian market they might do it 😛

  8. Won’t be EY as its partnerships with NZ and DJ put it at direct competition with Qantas and would make it too complicated. It may be EK… Depends on how willing they are to join, which based on past dealings isn’t much, but then they always disliked QF and look where they are now. I think the Middle East is still ‘watch this space’ for now.

    My bet its more likely and update of Malaysian and formal announcement of LATAM leaving *A and turning completely to oneworld.

  9. Are we sure in all of this that Qantas in OneWorld is an absolute? The agreement with Emirates cuts formal ties with BA and they have never been the best of pals with Cathay.

  10. All 3 airlines Emirates,Qatar,Etihad are not interested in joining any alliances,its been stated many times by their different ceo in Gulf news,they are developping a global reach network,lot of cash and cheap oil at hands.

  11. Right now all 3 BIG Middle Eastern airlines have stakes in One World.. Emirates partnership with Qantas, Etihad having 30% stake in Air Berlin and being extremely close to AA.. And then Qatar Airways planning to start a very very close relationship with BA.

  12. “wouldn’t be surprised if they force Qantas to leave OneWorld and form a fourth alliance as a result.”

    Does Emirates really have that much pull over Qantas?

  13. Total speculation here: What if US Air is going to leave Star and join One World? This is a necessary precursor to the AA / US Air merger that US Air wants. Merger would be dead in the water for antitrust considerations if US Air were to stay in Star or AA to leave OneWorld.

  14. I think these Middle Eastern airlines represent too much competition to be included in the big alliances. No way UA, SQ or LH wants to hand passengers to QR.

  15. @Nick I’d say TAM for now is the much more logical (albeit less exciting) guess. That said, I do fear (or rather expect) US to make the big switch sometime in the 18-24 month range. Just my $0.02

  16. Its obvioiusly TAM. Why people would even speculate about QATAR especially in light of the new QF-Emirates deal is mind boggling. Whereas, we have been expecting the TAM announcement for a while.

  17. I think it might be Emirates. Qatar Airways just left their affiliation with UA due to a disagreement over interline baggage limits/waivers (UA seems determined to alienate themselves from so many airlines due to their refusal to budge for baggage charge exemption). Also, this meeting might be to formalize MH joining OW. They were approved (as was S7 in Russia) last year, but not sure if they have officially been initiated. MH was a strange candidate from the beginning, given their only flight is a 3x weekly to LAX (via TPE). I seriously think EK might be joining. They recently started non-stop services to DFW this year and have been funneling tons of domestic interline traffic to AA.

  18. Because Qatar joining would probably be the worst possible outcome for OneWorld as it currently stands, and bad news is more common than good news, it probably is Qatar.
    Why can’t the Big 3 of Oneworld get together and coordinate their code-sharing efforts? I am not talking about something that is an anti-trust violation, just code-sharing.
    Here are the problems with Qatar joining that many of you have already pointed out.
    Qantas and Emirates vs. Air Berlin/Etihad and Air France vs. IAG/AA and Qatar. This poses a serious foundational conflict throughout the alliance.
    The problems for OneWorld if QF leaves are obvious so I won’t spend much time there. As bad of a hub as Abu Dhabi might be, Emirates does fly to DFW now and they would probably make the most sense. And at the very least that would leave Air Berlin/Etihad and Air France as the only odd combination.
    But While AB is not a huge carrier like IAG/AF/LH, they fill a very big void for OneWorld, especially the airlines other than IAG. OneWorld has a very big hole in Central Europe after the collapse of Malev. Star and SkyTeam are huge there and OneWorld is tiny. S7 is not the answer with the strict Russian visa requirements. Who would want to connect there and risk being stranded without a visa, if such a transit is even allowed?
    OneWorld needs Air Berlin badly. I am sure IAG would be very happy to be OneWorld’s sole European airline, they after all blocked Swiss from entering and sent them to LH’s waiting arms. Swiss would have been perfect but that opportunity is long gone unless LH decides to sell their interest.
    Perhaps OneWorld could siphon off a carrier from South Central Europe but I doubt they would find them appealing. I flew Tarom and found their service to be quite good.
    I am really surprised that the EU allowed SkyTeam and Star to get so big in Central Europe but they did and there is probably no going back now.
    If OneWorld loses AB and QF they will have serious problems in Australia and Central Europe. Personally, I think Etihad makes the best sense for all with their growth spurt about to kick into high gear, but with an apparent Sky Team deal in the works, I don’t see that happening.
    Maybe the best that OneWorld can hope for is an anti-trust block by the EU should Air Berlin try to join Sky Team.
    FYI, IAG does do some limited code sharing, especially IB, with some carriers from other alliances, but I would expect those arrangements to decrease as IAG grows.
    The one thing I am certain about is that the 3 big Gulf Airlines pairing up with different OneWorld players will cause a lot more problems than it will solve. a 3-way split would be the worst thing they could do. Why can’t they put more thought into this while there is still time?
    Maybe they tried with Etihad and Etihad simply wants to go to Sky Team. They might not have control over that, but surely something could be done about BA and QF going in different directions. Their growing distance from each other really puzzles me.

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