Qatar Airways could exit OneWorld over American dispute, says CEO
The CEO of Qatar Airways Group, Akbar Al Baker, seems to have lost his patience when it comes to OneWorld alliance and its U.S. member airline. So much that, on October 18, 2018, he threatened to withdraw from OneWorld altogether.
Speaking with the press in New York, U.S., on October 18, 2018, Al Baker voiced his frustrations over continuing accusations made against Qatar Airways by its OneWorld partner American Airlines.
"Qatar's commitment to the OneWorld alliance has diminished as we are constantly being attacked by OneWorld partner,” Al Baker said at the media conference, sharing the statement on Qatar Airways’ official Twitter account.
In fact, allegations made by American Airlines and its two U.S. counterparts – Delta and United – stating that the flag carrier of the State of Qatar is accepting unfair government subsidies have made the Qatar Airways boss question the very purpose of belonging to OneWorld:
“Alliance means interlining with each other, letting passengers use each other’s lounges, to be able to earn and burn miles on each other, to support each other. This is not happening from the American Airlines side (…) So what is the point?” Simple Flying quotes him as saying.
According to Al Baker, rumors have been “constantly spread” instead, dedicated to restricting Qatar Airways’ investments and growth. The airline’ chief reportedly issued what he characterized as an “ultimatum” to the alliance without providing a date for when the Qatari carrier would exit OneWorld if its demands were not met, Skift reports.
In response to Al Baker’s comments, American Airlines spokesman Matt Miller said that as a founding member of Oneworld, the U.S. carrier hopes “the alliance's membership remains intact," he was quoted as saying by CNBC.
The airline alliance is just a part of the far-reaching issue. There has been bad blood between the three biggest U.S. carriers and the three biggest Persian Gulf carriers for years. A member of the OneWorld alliance and one of its founders, American Airlines, along with United and Delta, has been accusing Qatar Airways as well as Emirates and Etihad of allegedly receiving large government subsidies to back the airlines’ expansion efforts.
In order to resolve the dispute, in January 2018, Qatar Airways agreed to make concessions in its Open Skies agreement with the biggest three U.S. carriers, promising to have greater financial transparency and to not to conduct “fifth freedom” flights to the U.S. (not run any indirect flights to the U.S. through other countries), Bloomberg wrote at the time.
Despite what seemed like a major step forward in the trade dispute, in March of this year, American Airlines announced it was ending its code-sharing agreement with Qatar Airways and a similar one with Etihad, stating relationships between American and those carriers no longer “made sense” for the U.S. airline, CNBC informs.
Qatar Airways on its part has always denied receiving illegal subsidies. Al Baker emphasized that the Qatari government has the right to invest in its state-owned airline, which he expects, will privatize sometime in the next decade.
In fact, while hosting the media roundtable, Al Baker discussed his airline’s upcoming plans in the U.S., stating that the carrier is “looking into investing opportunities in the United States and the broader Americas market,” The Blue Swan Daily reports.
Qatar Airways already has investments in British Airways, Iberia, Cathay Pacific and LATAM, which are all members of OneWorld. A fact that would complicate matters for the alliance if the Qatari carrier were to act on its “ultimatum”.
Qatar Airways joined the OneWorld alliance in October 2013. Currently, the alliance has 13 members with voting rights and approximately 30 affiliates through the members’ networks.
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