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?