IT’S THE rumour that’s been hitting the newswires for over two weeks: Qatar Airways is lined up to be Oneworld’s newest member. If indeed true, it would be the first of the three Gulf carriers to do so. A tremendous victory for the group, which includes American Airlines, IAG and Cathay Pacific, it would spell the dawn of a better, formidable competitor to both other alliances and the ever-growing Emirates.
The picture is not all it seems, however. Interline agreements and compromise go hand-in-hand in the business plan of any alliance member. Qatar, having 181 aircraft on order, is poised for enormous growth, intending to grab a piece of the global passenger movement to the Middle-East. Being in Oneworld would mean having to tame their attempts to capture this market in order to appease the needs of fellow members who also rely on international traffic through their hubs to operate profitably.
Mixed messages from Qatar Airways headquarters have been released with CEO, Akbar al-Baker, quick to deny the rumours at first, before saying the airline was “open to joining any alliance”. His reluctance could stem from frustration at the European Union, who he accuses of “protectionism”, with Qatar coming up against political red tape when attempting to open new routes to countries such as France and Germany.
On the other hand, passenger experience and travel options stand to benefit from the possibility of Qatar’s admittance. Highly ranked and receiver of multiple awards, the Doha-based airline is renowned for it’s high standards of customer service and hospitality.
If verified, time will be in short supply for Star Alliance and Skyteam to entice the acceptance of possibly-interested Etihad into their respective organisations. The Abu Dhabi-based airline is the smallest of the three Gulf carriers but still has enough international traffic to bite into the ongoing success of both Emirates and Qatar.
UPDATE: Qatar Airways have just joined Oneworld alliance.