Qatar Airways Likely To Announce Oneworld Withdrawal In 1-2 Months (Empty Threat?)

Filed Under: oneworld, Qatar

Qatar Airways joined the oneworld alliance in 2013, and has been threatening to leave the alliance since 2015. While the rumors have always been there, this became a frequent point of conversation again in October 2018, when Qatar Airways’ CEO, Akbar Al Baker, made the threat repeatedly.

I get the source of his frustration. He feels that Qatar Airways has been bullied by American and Qantas, as the carriers have tried to stop Qatar Airways’ growth, and Al Baker feels that’s not in the spirit of the alliance.

But the problem is that Al Baker is the boy who cried wolf. He has been threatening to leave the alliance for four of the six years his airline has been in it, so at some point the threat loses credibility.

Today during a press conference at ITB Berlin, Al Baker was asked about the status of Qatar Airways leaving oneworld. Here’s what we had to say (bolding mine):

“About oneworld, it was not a rumor, you heard it from me. And we have given them a breathing space to get their act together. You see when you invite somebody, you invite me, to your house, and then you tell me that I can not drink the water from the glass I have to drink from the tap, and then you tell me that we will not give you any food, we will only give you bread and water. This is not why you invited me to your house. You invited me to your house as your guest, and as somebody that you respect.

Qatar Airways is not a Mickey Mouse airline. We are the largest ASK contributor to the oneworld if you add all our investments. And if you remove those investments, we are the second largest ASK contributor to the oneworld. And if we leave oneworld we will create a big hole for them in their entire connectivity.

We are not going to be bullied by some individual who thinks that the world belongs to them. The world belongs to the world community. And we as an airline, we will demand respect, and we will not submit to anybody that is trying to bully us.

We in the matter of a month or two will give you the news if we are going to stay or we are going to withdraw. And I think it is the latter that will happen. Since the people that invited us are now constantly targeting us and our growth.”

So as you can see, Al Baker is saying that in one to two months Qatar Airways will announce if they’re staying in oneworld, and as of now he says he thinks the airline will leave oneworld.

What’s my take on this?

  • It would be a massive loss to the alliance and frequent flyers if Qatar Airways left oneworld
  • The problem is that no one can take Al Baker seriously, because he has been making the same idle threat for years and years

When push comes to shove, I really don’t think Qatar Airways will leave oneworld. The airline has invested in IAG (the parent company of British Airways and Iberia), Cathay Pacific, and LATAM.

All of those airlines are in oneworld. Qatar Airways could leave oneworld, but realistically he’s not withdrawing the other airlines with him. British Airways’ single biggest business is their transatlantic joint venture with American.

So while Al Baker’s frustration is legitimate, he has been making this threat for so long, and if he were ready to pull the trigger he would have done so a long time ago. He’s not getting an apology from Doug Parker or Alan Joyce, so he’ll either have to suck it up or leave.

To my knowledge, though, this is the first time Al Baker has given a timeline with which the carrier might announce a departure from oneworld. I highly doubt he’ll follow through on an announcement one way or another in one to two months, but at least we can start the clock until we can address this again…

Do you think Qatar Airways will follow through with leaving oneworld?

Comments

  1. It will be a real shame to lose Qatar from oneworld, but I can see why other airlines are not happy with Qatar.

    But I still hope EY will join staralliance, rather than Qatar 🙂

  2. It’s no loss for many of us who refuse to fly flag carriers from countries that persecute LGBT, other religions, etc. We have many choices in airlines. Never flown Qatar, never will

  3. Al Baker talks a lot, thats right. But each time when he repeated his statements, he followed up with action. Maybe this was the last warning, hoping that the “friends” in OW will finally but the others in line!

  4. @ JP — Sorry, are we talking about the same Al Baker, re: always following up statements with actions?

  5. Between American’s Luxurious First Class bathroom on the 737Max, BA’s coach which has become even worse than Ryanair and Iberia which puts full fare Business passengers on their spartan Iberia Express, Qatar Airways is one of the sole remaining threads which keep me in Oneworld. If they go, so do I, as I imagine will tens (Hundreds?) of thousands of passengers who are not Basic Economy flyers.

  6. Agree with Pierre. If QR leaves then that leaves us who fly in premium cabins little choice but to call it a day with Oneworld. Yes I think they will leave. Dam.

  7. As someone who loves Star Alliance, I hope that they will join Star Alliance. And I hope Cathay will join Star Alliance too. That would be a heck of an amazing change.

    Imagine all the AA frequent flyers crying because they lost access to the CX First lounges.

  8. Could Qatar leave OW and form code share with BA, CP, and Latam? If so, that would leave the investments connected while severing ties with AA and Qantas.

  9. Without QR, Oneworld would be a terrible alliance for premium flyers. Even CX is starting to get dated, though JL is decent.

    I’d imagine this would also have an impact on the AA FF program. If EY and QR leave it’s one of the worst frequent flier programs. AAdvantage has had a lot of negative changes, EY and QR would have to be disastrous for them.

  10. I really hope this doesn’t happen. I was planning on redeeming AA miles for Q suites later this year.

  11. Qatar leaving oneworld would leave a massive hole in the network, not to mention the damage it will do to the value of the oneworld frequent flyer programs.

    As mentioned in a previous post, Qatar could leave and then select the airline partners it wants to work with through code shares, and frequent flyer programs. With their investment in IAG, there would be mutually benefits for Qatar to continue to offer BA Executive Club benefits, including earning/redemption, and perhaps the option of still earning tier points, plus code share.

    It would be a shame. Qatar provides quality product and service. Oneworld would be left with a sub-par business class offering with BA (and the new business class will take many, many years to filter through the fleet), and a competitive transat hard product with AA featuring consistently bad service. JL, CX and to a lesser extend MH provides a quality offering to Asia. The reduction in options to the growing Africa and Asia sub-continent will hurt oneworld’s value for business travelers.

    Stronger together, right? This is the Brexit argument all over again, isn’t it?

  12. If they did leave, what would that mean for redemptions? i’ve an avios redemption mid-summer in Qsuites i dont want to lose

  13. I hope not. I’m in the process of banking about 200k AA miles in hopes of QSuites next April. If they leave before I can book (which is likely), what’s my next best option to DEL and/or back from CAI with AA miles?

  14. With Doug Parker in such a shitty situation with the impending losses that AA will suffer with his mismanagement, I am curious as to why Al Baker doesn’t sit around and rejoice AA’s demise.

    Alan Joyce is just a puppet of AA and should be taken with a pinch of salt.

  15. For purely selfish reasons I hope they don’t as they help me maintain my BA Gold status. So combined with having the best biz product out there I hope they stay

  16. This is one of the many reason I have begun to cut my losses with OneWorld. I am lucky enough to have OneWorld Sapphire for life through Qantas so I can avoid baggage’s fees on AA etc. OneWorld destinations are crap. Connections are crap. This is why I have moved my business to Turkish Airlines and Star Alliance. Over the last 18 months, I have spent about 12K on TK. It might not sound like much, but I was a loyal OneWorld customer who is moving on.

  17. Boraxo so from your post t I take it you don’t fly AA, UA or DL because the things you mention happen in the US too.

  18. One positive thing might come out of it: QR’s departure from Oneworld might mean the end of Doug Parker’s position at AA. Stock price, service devaluation ( and few thought it was possible), crews dissatisfaction, gaping hole in OW network and the fact that Parker’s comments about QR’s plans to invest in AA last year (or was it 2 years ago?) caused the situation… All that should be enough to seal his fate.

  19. @Lucky: I think Qatar investments in Oneworld airlines make it *easier* for them to leave. They can just go free agent and still retain most of the benefits of the alliance (like Alaska), since they can simply have bilateral partnerships with individual airlines instead. It will be slightly more messy, but it allows them to target individual competitors to attack.

  20. This might be an idle threat, but I might pull out from AA (exp for the last 6 years) if this happens. I am annoyed about so much with American, but I do kind of love QR, and most of my flying is to destinations no other OW airline serves (but many *A airlines do.)

  21. I’ve got QR flights booked in late May. I’m counting on them to requalify for EXP this year. If they pull out, I hope the exit date isn’t immediate.

  22. I just booked flights on Qatar with AA miles for October. I assume the confirmed itinerary will still be honored even if they withdraw?

  23. Wonder if the announcement of adding Royal Air Maroc to OW could have impacted Qatar’s decision to potentially leave OW and if OW feels more secure that it will at least have Royal Air Maroc as an option to many of the African destinations that Qatar offers. Clearly there is no competition as to which of the two (Qatar and RAM) has a better overall experience but it really could soften the blow of Qatar leaving.

    Agree with most of the posters here though, OW’s route network really would suffer without Qatar as well as premium pax. Have to wonder if they would consider bringing in another partner in that region. Wildcard would be El Al.

  24. AA can pull muscle, but its deeply in bed with BA so its not wise and QR are not hurting them! QF is a minor flag carrier that needs to take a seat and face the wall!…face the wall!

    Qatar would be a massive loss, can OneWorld risk losing not only QR but possibly CX??? I don’t think so.

    QF and AA need to embrace QR or watch what happens, and it will not be pretty for OneWorld!

    IF QR stays with OneWorld, they can create massive massive trouble within the alliance through their ownership.

  25. For someone that lives in Qatar, I normally book American Airlines and can actually get a reasonable price for a ticket out of here to fly back to the US. If that goes away, than I will only be able to get one flight out of here through BA and would actually hamper the connectivity issues.

  26. That’s quite a relief for me if they do – no longer will I have to endure some mediocre European airlines’ flights in pseudo business class to get my Q-Credits to uphold my gold status with Qatar airways’ gold status 🙂

  27. If QR withdrew from 1World it would it be curious to see if QF and AA would lobby to make sure QR has its services reduced into Australia and USA. Neither fly to Doha so QR could not do anything to hurt either airline in reverse as far as landing rights, and let’s not forget QR is banned from a number of middle east countries.

  28. I am curious at a lot of the commenters saying how bad the OW business products are without QR? I really can’t think of the other alliances with a collection of substantially better products?

    In terms of the major European carriers yes the BA product is sub-par but so is the LH product flying the flag for *A (even more so in my personal opinion) and then you have AF for Skyteam with half of their fleet still angle-flat! The US3 are essentially (or soon to be) identical in terms of hard and soft product for international business class (obv AA is tearing itself apart domestically), while in Asia you have CX and JL representing OW both of whom have outstanding products, while SQ and ANA also have outstanding products retreating options for *A. Or you could go Korean Air which is okay, and China Eastern which is appalling, for Skyteam. Explain to me again how awful OW airlines are??

    It would be a huge loss for QR to leave the OW alliance but it’s still the most useful alliance I’d argue for premium business travellers.

    Oh, also if you want connectivity in South America OW is still miles ahead with LATAM.

  29. If QR left OW where would it go? Given it, and the country’s spat with its Arab neighbours, to be a stand-alone airline, or outside an alliance would be the height of folly and see it in a downwards spiral.
    Still, irrational thinking to the country’s detriment is not so uncommon (yes, lookin’ at you Trump!).

  30. I don’t know if they will abandon OW and I don’t care. in OW I only fly them. BA, Iberia suck. I am happy they finally put direct flights to Lisbon up for sale from June onwards in a 787. was about time

  31. I’m with @Ray. Other airlines need to remind AA what a loyalty program is supposed to be about. AA’s recent email suggesting we should rate them highly among all loyalty programs was further than I was willing to go for them, and I’ve been an AAdvantage member since the program was merged with Pan Am’s back in the dark ages when my miles were earned on milk runs like New York-Dakar-Monrovia-Lagos-Nairobi. Systemwide upgrades are meaningless unless you want to wait for last minute availability (I don’t). That means AA doesn’t get my money for the 99% of my expensive trips I plan in advance, defeating the purpose of a frequent flyer program.

  32. No loss if QR leaves OW best thing that could happen. I dislike Al Bakar and his threats, the airline is heavily subsidized and is accountable to no one. Airlines like QF/AA/JL/CX etc are profitable and have to answer to their shareholders.
    As far as Australian travelers are concerned I believe QF/EK JV works well for us.
    Obviously most of the misinformed posted above is from shortsighted Americans who have little or no knowledge of the dynamics facing airlines these days. QR is immune to any of these as it has rich backers.
    QR leave one world and go out and take on the world you will not be missed.
    Thanks God the Australian Governments has no intention of changing the air services agreement been Qatar and Australia.
    Alan Joyce is without one the best airline CEO around an Al could learn a thing or two from him.

  33. No loss. Flown them 6 times up front and each time it’s been dreadful. Never again.

    From shoddy uniforms and unpolished shoes to surly service and hideously out-dated product.

    I thought trying 1st would see an elevation in service. Only 2 of us on an A380. Nice product there but to get a hot face towel when we’re taxiing and no drink upon boarding..was told..sorry we’re so busy at the back. Wth!!

    I do not expect to be served my first drink and meal order taken 1.2 hours out of Doha. And Doha is the pits for any Emerald OW flier with zero access to the 1st class lounge.

    I have formally asked my carrier to ensure they reciprocate the favour and i heard last week from the lounge manager many were asking to remove QR AND BA Emerald from my choice of carrier’s 1st class lounge. Hope it works.

    5 Star airline? I can only surmise it’s paid for or more likely, the type of people that fly them at their low fares haven’t experienced real service and this is now their benchmark. I am sure it’s that when you see the type of pax boarding to/from BKK and MNL. First time flyers that think it’s the bees’ knees.

    For me – never again.

  34. @ Austline
    “As far as Australian travelers are concerned I believe QF/EK JV works well for us.”

    Really? You prefer EK 7-abreast J seats to Qsuites? I know we all have different tastes and priorities, but I struggle to see how anyone could rank EK’s business class as even in the same league as Qsuites (or even in the same league as QR’s reverse herringbone on their A359s).

    Meanwhile, QF’s J is a perfectly pleasant, middle-of-the-road product. I’m content flying it, but would I choose it over *any* QR option to Australia? Hell, no.

    I did QF’s non-stop LHR-PER a few months back, with a connection to SYD. It was … fine. Perfectly pleasant for a ULH. I’ve got another LON-SYD coming up in the summer, and that will definitely be QR.

    I suspect I’ll still be flying Qsuites over QF even if the latter succeeds in getting a LON-SYD non-stop in ~2021.

  35. @ Stephen
    “unpolished shoes”

    Wow. Just wow. You are actually looking at F/A shoes in the first place, but then you’re ranking them compared to other airlines’ F/As?

    Wow.

    Man, it’s none of my business but, if it were me, I’d really start to think about what’s going on in my life that I’ve decided the degree of polish on an F/A’s shoes was something I should even notice, let alone worry about. Or do you have some sort of specialised fetish?

    Blimey. Each to their own, I guess.

  36. How peculiar that you feel an unkempt appearance is unacceptable – after all, they are in the service industry, no?

    But there again i don’t wear Adidas or Nike track suits when I fly.

    Next time you fly another carrier of repute check out how much care and attention the crew pay to their appearance because it’s indicative of the level and quality of service that you pay for.

    I call it professionalism. Not sure what it is in your book.

    Maybe I touched a nerve with my comment about the type of pax that QR appeals to because of price and their practise of seat dumping in various markets. Sorry about that!

  37. @ Stephen

    No, no nerve touched. I’m just startled at some of the things that some people feel are of vital importance.

    Though I still don’t understand what you are doing, examining an F/A’s shoes.

    Your offensive class-ist comments were, I’d assumed, a deliberate provocation to generate an emotional response. Alas, it was so unsubtly done that I dismissed it as being like the wailings of a small child, enraged that it was not the centre of attention.

  38. @Pierre,

    There is no doubt standards at CX have slipped in the past few years, but the hard product i would personally still take any day over the hugely uncomfortable ‘fold-over and sleep at an angle’ SQ seats for example, and their lounges remain outstanding (even though they massively downgraded the wine selection in their 1st class lounges). In other words, yes, I still think they offer an ‘outstanding’ product compared to the average, even if not as good as it used to be a few years ago.

  39. Nobody in their right mind would fly Royal Air Maroc when they have other options.
    There is no reason for Qatar to feel any sort of threat from RAM.

  40. Huh. I just did a LATAM flight and as a result of this damn exchange found myself checking out the FAs’ shoes. It was interesting, actually.

    Did you know the heels of most of the women’s shoes are made out of – or coated in – a silvery mirror finish? Intriguing. I’ve never seen that before.

    The men had slip-ons with what looked like an elastic bridge, but bounded by two leather flaps or crests. I’ve never seen that before either.

    Who knew FA shoes were so interesting?

    🙂

    Instead of the published 787, we got an ancient 772, no branding at all. Row 1 at the very front of the plane was, for some reason, labelled row 11. Apparently every boarding pass had the wrong seat number on it. Perhaps unsurprisingly, take off was a little delayed.

  41. Have a question.
    I tried booking a QR flight with AAdvantage miles for September travel on AA.com. The web-site displayed QR flights in the selection but when you select the flight and click continue, the response is always “Flight you selected is no longer available”. I can book BA flights though.
    Has anyone booked QR flight with AA miles?

  42. @Lucky: If Qatar leaves OW, do you know how long the process will take until they are completely out? Meaning when the OW passenger will stop getting EQM/EQD’s?

    Thanks.

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