IAG CEO Claims Qatar Airways “Highly Likely” To Leave Oneworld

Filed Under: Qatar

About a month ago I wrote about how Qatar Airways’ CEO, Akbar Al Baker, threatened that his airline may be leaving the oneworld alliance.

Why Qatar Airways is threatening to leave oneworld

This is a threat he has been making for years, going back as far as 2015. Al Baker’s primary issues seem to be with American and Qantas, as he feels his airline is being treated unfairly by both of them:

As I explained, I think Al Baker has legitimate gripes. American Airlines is being a crybaby (as usual), while Qantas is (understandably) trying to defend their market, and is viewing Qatar as a threat rather than as a partner.

So I don’t put much weight into Al Baker’s threat. I think he’s right to be frustrated, but when push comes to shove, I think oneworld is better off with Qatar Airways, and Qatar Airways is better off with oneworld.

IAG’s CEO gives credibility to Al Baker’s comments

There’s an interesting update on this. On Friday IAG (the parent company of British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, etc.) had their capital markets day, and IAG’s CEO, Willie Walsh, had something interesting to say. IAG’s CEO said that he thinks it’s “highly likely” that Qatar will leave the oneworld alliance, as reported by Air Transport World:

“I think it’s highly likely that Qatar will leave the oneworld alliance. I have had regular contact Akbar Al Baker on this issue. He doesn’t say these things without being genuinely behind the comments. He is annoyed at the way some oneworld members have responded, as alliance partners. I think this is a genuine threat.”

Is it time to redeem American miles on Qatar Airways before they leave the alliance? No, definitely not. First of all there’s no rush because if they do leave, it won’t be instant. Second of all, I still don’t think it’s happening.

Why do I not put much weight in Walsh’s comments? Let’s keep in mind that Qatar Airways owns a roughly 20% stake in IAG, so the company is IAG’s largest shareholder. It’s in Walsh’s best interest to keep Al Baker happy and to validate what he says.

Regardless of how he really feels about the odds of Qatar Airways leaving the alliance, I think it’s in his best interest to suggest that Al Baker is serious.

Let’s keep in mind that British Airways is in an interesting position here. In addition to Qatar Airways owning a 20% stake in IAG, IAG’s single biggest joint venture is the transatlantic joint venture with American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia, etc.

So while Walsh is defending Qatar Airways here, American and British Airways also work together more closely than any other oneworld airlines.

But the real reason we know Walsh isn’t too serious is because he also says this about Al Baker:

“He doesn’t say these things without being genuinely behind the comments.”

Let’s keep in mind that Al Baker vehemently denied Qatar Airways would join oneworld just a day before the airline announced they’d join the alliance. It’s one thing to say “we don’t discuss rumors,” but he outright denied it.

Al Baker is known for making comments he’s not genuinely behind, so I’d view all of this through the same lens.

Bottom line

IAG’s CEO claims it’s “highly likely” that Qatar Airways leaves oneworld. I think he’s making this statement for political reasons, rather than because he truly believes it. But I could be wrong.

Where do you guys stand — do you think it’s “highly likely” that Qatar Airways will leave oneworld?

  1. Lucky, you chose to obmit that a timeline was mentioned when Qatar would leave Oneworld. Bloomberg & Reuters had a rather detailed article about this.

    The fact that WW mentioned this means that it’s either a real threat or he’s trying to get AA to ‘behave’.

  2. Would be sad if true. Qatar is by far the jewel in the crown of the OW airlines even more now CX seems to have lost it.
    The rest of OW is not very exciting to fly with.
    I hope it is not true but it likely is. Shame on AA.

  3. Qatar is already isolated from several of its neighboring countries politically and has airspace restrictions all around their hub in Doha. The last thing they need is to pull out of an alliance of partners that would be glad to see them go anyway. Doha falls off the map completely if they pull out of one world.

  4. With Qatar hosting the 2022 World Cup, millions of tourists will be visiting for that and other major events as well. They cannot afford to break off from OW at this time. It would be suicide for the airline and the region imo.

  5. Baker would be incredibly stupid to leave OneWorld. With the current political situation in the Middle East, Qatar needs OneWorld now more than ever. But OneWorld does not need Qatar. If they left, they would hurt no one but themselves.

  6. It is so frustrating Qantas dealing with Emirates over Qatar but this may be a shorter term thing. At the time of the original agreement Qatar was definitely not joining Oneworld. Now Qantas is routing through Singapore again, it would make sense to drop Emirates and support Qatar. Obviously they aren’t going to do it publicly while the deal with Emirates is still in place. *crosses fingers*

  7. Clearly what is *actually* going on here is that QR are going to leave OW and join SkyTeam to ensure that Etihad can’t.

    I’ll get my coat….

  8. Sure hope not, for their sake. I go wayyyy out of my way to fly QR due to their being in the alliance, and for the same reason, you’ll almost never see me on an EK flight, or even EY, even though my routings are perfectly compatible with those airlines (mainly US-India.) Surely I’m not the only one doing this – and I know that, because I’ve been jostled a million times at the OW lounge in Doha, and waited ages for a shower. If I’m not mistaken, every single person in both of those lounges is a OW, non-QR statused flyer.

    But then, AA does suck, and I’m sure it would be fun to stick it to them. The alliance is so, so weak without them. What with BA’s ridiculous surcharges, there is ZERO availability to Africa if QR leaves.

  9. I can’t imagine this would happen. They would have to join another alliance (or at least a non-alliance partner with one of the remaining US3) and in doing so, would have to relocate all but probably 2 of their US routes (JFK/LAX) to make the new partnership work. Plus, I can’t imagine DL and UA would be eager to work with them given the whole Open Skies (non)-issue.

  10. An alliance with the largest airline alliance is the best qatar can do now. Hope al baker is already in talks with star alliance.

  11. I give it a more than 50% chance. Qatar Airways Group could „convince“ IAG (20% stake), Cathay Pacific (10% stake) and LATAM (10% stake) to leave Oneworld with them and build a new alliance with a strong position in EMEA, Asia and Latin America.

    Oneword would be left with AA, JAL, Qantas, Finnair and some smaller players, which is not a very attractive alliance then.

  12. Al Baker is threatening OW and Walsh knows it would of been a serious problem.
    Given the equity stakes Qatar had in other OW airlines, the leaving and pushing their partially owned airlines to go, too, would be a serious problem for AA and the rest of them…
    AA is most dependent on the loyalty program – people in Asia and Europe fly Qatar because they are a good airline.
    How many people in the US fly AA because they enjoy it? Exactly! That’s why AA needs this alliance more than Qatar… If OW breaks up over this, AA won’t be able to compete with UA or DL at all…

  13. If Oneworld has any sense, they should be talking to Etihad and Emirates and trying to persuade them to join Oneworld.

  14. @ Bour

    That would be insane. Etihad is going down the toilet; Emirates is fine for A380 service, but has a rubbish J class in the 777s. Qatar is a much better airline than either of those two.

    I think it’s an interesting dilemma for Qatar and oneworld. It used to be said that you couldn’t have a decent alliance without one of the US3, so important was the NA market.

    I think it probably still is the case that you need decent connectivity into NA; but I wonder if you could get that differently?: eg, many US3 flights are routed via one or other of their hubs. Which is fine if your destination is one of the hubs, but tiresome if you have to change planes.

    BA has been opening direct routes into NA like there’s no tomorrow. So in an alliance without the US3, you simply move the “hub” bit of the arrangement to LHR (well, yes, that’s not my favourite airport for transferring, either). Which also has the advantage that you fly all legs in the comfort of a long-haul widebody, rather than doing one short leg on a cramped regional jet. If you add in to your alliance any (or all) from Alaska+Jet Blue+Porter, are you getting close enough to offering decent NA routes in an alliance of airlines which otherwise are all part-owned by Qatar?

    Most of us have consistently underestimated the scale of Qatar’s ambitions. Maybe we’re doing it again? And maybe the new fashion for having JV arrangements outside of an alliance means BA+AA can carry on with their TATL partnership – which might otherwise be a big hurdle.

  15. If they leave, where would they go? They cant be without an alliance, as too many of us wouldnt fly them any more. Its a reason I fly them a lot, while a non-alliance airline like Oman isnt attractive to me.
    Star Alliance? I hope so, then Id fly them even more than today.

  16. Uh oh there goes access to Qsuites the real fear amongst us
    Everyone into Doug Parker’s monopoly airline
    Sure glad I am in many programs with transferable points for reasons just like this
    Not worried either way
    I don’t need a shower or a suite to get from point a to point b
    Mere business and first class still work for this peon 🙂

  17. I find it amusing how one minute everyone is saying how alliances are not that relevant anymore and not what they used to be… yet, the moment there is mention of a key player leaving, people are going on about how the alliance needs the airline and the airline the alliance etc etc…

    Although I don’t think QR will leave… I also think that between IAG, QR and a couple of other carefully selected close partners, a big joint venture can make OW entirely redundant!

  18. Good ridden’s let them go, sick of QR posturing and Al Bakers threats.
    I hope that the Aussie Government does not back down and give them additional flights.

    QF has a great relationship with EK which works well for all Aussies who travel to the ME and Europe. I hope QF grow their non stop flights to the UK and Euro.

    Would be good to see QR leave OW just look at their lounge policy; gold travelling Y class – mmmm! Compare this to other OW carriers.

  19. Qatar needs to relax about Qantas’ attitude towards them (not that it is very dreadful anyway). In the competition stakes Qatar is wiping the floor with Qantas! Much, much better hard and soft product, with more direct flights (to Doha with massive connections elsewhere) from more Australian airports, every day. I have walked the walk, and enjoyed every minute. Would be a mis-step to leave OW, especially given the cold shoulder the UAE fiefdoms are giving Qatar at this time. Personally I can’t see a better alternative for them.

  20. I can remember when Qatar joined this alliance – “Privilege” members were bombarded with stuff about being proudly accepted into the “One World Family”, Qatar fuselage was plastered with “One World” and Ali Bakr almost had a coronary in his jubilant celebrations at having been admitted. Oh how sad that little cat fights can cause such big eruptions.

  21. I think all he wnated to say is, please take Al Bakar seriously. We all know AA is the bully on the schoolyard … yet making deals with the bully is lucrative … and IAG is stuck in between the two …

  22. @wondermeant

    Have to agree wholeheartedly, as a business person who travelled the world for most of the year the loss of Qatar to OW would be no big deal, the need for a Q Suite or a shower on board a aircraft is not a serious need for most business men. A competent business man would ensure that his travel plans are scheduled in a orderly manner by his personal assistant or TA.The need to eat caviar and drink vintage champagne often at odd hours on a aircraft begs the question , why!. For a Sydney Australia resident I can always rely on Singapore Airlines, and they invariably put QA to shame. But then I do enjoy OMAAT.

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