Qatar Airways announced a significant codeshare expansion agreement with its partner from South East Asia, Malaysia Airlines. The Doha-based carrier‘s newest agreement will enable its passengers to book tickets to such Malaysian destinations as Sibu, Alo Setar and two Indonesian cities, namely Medan and Surabaya.

In return, Malaysia Airlines passengers are now able to book flights to 20 extra destinations throughout America, Asia and Europe, states the press release. Under the previous agreement, travelers were able to book flights to 10 getaways.

Currently, Qatar Airways flies a thrice daily flight to the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KUL). In addition, the company has increased the number of weekly flights to Penang International Airport, Malaysia (PEN) from three to five and launched a new service to Langkawi, Malaysia with a stop in the aforementioned Penang airport. Both the increase in weekly flights and the route to Langkawi were announced in October 2019.

A rumor mill of sale and purchase

After a challenging 2018, as Malaysia Airlines Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Izham Ismail called it, rumors started to emerge of a potential sale to a number of buyers, one of which includes Qatar Airways. The flag carrier of the South East Asian country has been in financial trouble for most of the previous decade as it faced mounting pressure from low-cost carriers, including Air Asia, Lion Air and its Malaysian subsidiary Malindo Air.

Malaysia Airlines might be facing an uncertain future, as the country’s government is reportedly weighting in to shut, sell or refinance the national carrier. The news comes two weeks after the airline has revealed its latest annual financial results, calling the year 2018 “challenging”.

Qatar Airways, severely impacted by the imposed blockade by its neighbors, has been eyeing expansion all throughout the world, including Asia and Africa. Malaysia and its flag carrier received its fair share of attention, including a private meeting between the Qatari carrier’s Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker and Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad.

In addition, Qatar Airways has been particularly active in purchasing stakes in foreign airlines for the past few years, including such airlines as LATAM or International Airlines Group (IAG), which owns brands like British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus.

With the Saudi-led blockade continuing on since 2017, Qatar Airways has little room to wiggle. Yet the airline, in part, needs to grow, with a global mega-event and Doha's Hamad International Airport (DOH) expansion coming up. So, despite the blockade, what moves has Qatar Airways done?