In late June, Qatar Airways announced their intention to buy up to a 10% stake in American Airlines. Per a filing at the time, Qatar first wanted to acquire an $808 million stake (~4%) in American, and was considering increasing that at a later point. While I’d usually call Qatar’s bluffs, the airline has purchased a significant stake in IAG, the parent company of British Airways, so this move didn’t seem that unusual.
Not surprisingly, American’s CEO claimed he wasn’t “particularly excited” about this news, and described the news for many as “puzzling, at best, and concerning, at worst.” This is probably largely due to the dispute between US carriers and Gulf carriers, and really he had to say that, give the (deceptive) smear campaign that the US carriers are running against the Gulf carriers.
Earlier this month Qatar Airways announced that they no longer had plans to invest in American. A press release claimed that the “investment no longer meets [their] objectives.” That statement is certainly open to interpretation.
It looks like there’s an interesting update on this front (per a Skift/Bloomberg article), as Qatar Airways has expanded on why they didn’t invest in American, and also that they still want to invest in a US airline.
Why didn’t Qatar invest in American?
Of course we can’t know with certainty that this is the reason, but after the fact Qatar Airways’ CEO is claiming that they chose not to invest in American because of Doug Parker’s lack of enthusiasm about the potential investment. Per the article:
“We would have wanted to take up to 10 percent, for which we would need board approval, and we realized we are not going to get it,” he said. “When we are not welcomed by the CEO of the company, who is of course also a shareholder, why should we then invest?”
Al Baker said his interest in building a stake was motivated by “confidence in the U.S. aviation industry,” rather than being aimed at “influencing” American in the debate over Gulf funding.
Qatar isn’t giving up on a US investment
Despite the American Airlines deal not working, Qatar Airways isn’t giving up. Al Baker is quoted as saying that Qatar Airways is still very much interested in investing in a US airline:
“We have other opportunities, both in America and North America, which we will consider,” Akbar Al Baker, the Persian Gulf carrier’s chief executive officer, said Wednesday in Doha, the Qatari capital. “I have some things in mind. The U.S. is an important market for us.”
He hasn’t revealed much in the way of details yet, though I think there are a couple of obvious candidates, which the story references. JetBlue and Alaska are the first two airlines that come to mind, as both gladly partner with Gulf carriers and aren’t part of the smear campaign being run by the “big three” US carriers. Instead they work with the Gulf carriers in a mutually beneficial way.
Of the two, JetBlue seems like the more likely candidate, as they’ve had foreign investment before, and could also potentially work with Qatar more closely, given their route network.
I’m curious to see how this plays out. Al Baker’s explanation for why they didn’t move forward with the investment in American makes sense (for once). Meanwhile I’m curious to see what airline they try to pursue next. While an airline like Alaska or JetBlue wouldn’t help them much in the Open Skies fight or in terms of creating a compatible international route network, it could be mutually beneficial for providing more traffic at US gateways.
Which US carrier do you think Qatar Airways is most likely to invest in?