When Delta Air Lines announced the intention to invest over $2 billion into a partnership with LATAM, including obtaining a 20% stake in the Chilean airline, many were surprised and confused. Firstly, because of airline alliances – Delta represents SkyTeam, while LATAM was a member of oneworld. Immediately after both airlines announced the new partnership, oneworld announced that LATAM is leaving the alliance. However, one member of oneworld lurked in the shadows, staying silent about the Delta Air Lines’ venture into South America.
But now, Qatar Airways, which owns a 10% stake in LATAM, shed some light. During a press conference on September 17, 2019, a day after Qatar Airways inaugurated flights between Hamad International Airport (DOH) and Langkawi, Malaysia (LGK), Chief Executive Officer of the Middle East carrier, Akbar al-Baker expressed that Qatar Airways is interested in purchasing a bigger stake in LATAM, if given the opportunity, as reported by Reuters.
According to al-Baker, Qatar was in the dark regarding the Delta Air Lines investment, even if the carrier has a representative on LATAM’s executive board. Yet the airline cannot “dictate to LATAM how they should conduct their business”, he added, as it is up to the South American carrier to choose “whom they want to work with”. Nevertheless, Qatar Airways’ CEO praised Delta for the business move, as the latter “outmaneuvered” American Airlines (A1G) (AAL) , the now-former partner of LATAM and the current Qatar Airways partner on the oneworld alliance.
Which al-Baker has threatened to leave multiple times since 2015 when the “Big Three” U.S. legacy carriers accused Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad of receiving illegal state aid, fueling the rapid expansion of the Middle Eastern airline trio. Today’s press conference was no exception – Qatar Airways “has not made its final decision” regarding leaving oneworld, but is considering its options. Other members of the alliance are seemingly trying to fix the differences between Qatar Airways and American Airlines (A1G) (AAL) , al-Baker noted.
Join the party
Qatar Airways is not the only airline that had to react to Delta‘s sudden move – threatened by the fact that it might lose a significant portion of the market on flights between the United States and South America, United Airlines and American Airlines (A1G) (AAL) are eyeing agreements with airlines in the South.
A four-way joint venture between Brazil’s Azul (AZUL) , Colombia’s Avianca Panama’s Copa Airlines and United Airlines is, reportedly, in the works. While Azul (AZUL) is not associated with an alliance, the other three parties are under the same Star Alliance umbrella.
Meanwhile, American Airlines (A1G) (AAL) is looking to get back together with an ex-partner, GOL Linhas Aereas Inteligentes. The two were code-sharing flights until 2011 when Delta Air Lines purchased a 9% stake in the Brazilian low-cost carrier.