One of the greatest assets of the oneworld alliance would have to be Qatar Airways. They have an amazing business class product, they’re known for having a quality economy class soft product, and they operate an extensive routemap, if not as extensive as their neighbour (and rival) Emirates.
Qatar Airways’ business class product is all-rounded
However, on the other hand, Qatar Airways’ CEO is kind of a nutcase. Akbar Al Baker is a very smart guy who’s proud of his airline, but sometimes he just says things that others find cringeworthy. As much as I love the airline he runs, I don’t find it enough to back up his ego (and that’s saying a lot).
So while Qatar Airways has always had a good reputation among customers, the same can’t be said for its reputation among fellow industry members, such as airlines, oneworld, and Airbus (they threw a tantrum when their A380s arrived late).
IAG CEO Willie Walsh has said that Qatar Airways is “highly likely” to depart the oneworld alliance in 2019. Akbar himself has hinted at leaving in the past, though the likelihood of it happening hasn’t been huge prior to now.
While Akbar isn’t on everyone’s good side, he does have a good working relationship with Walsh. Here’s what Walsh said, according to ATW Online:
I think it’s highly likely that Qatar will leave the oneworld alliance. I have had regular contact Akbar Al Baker on this issue. He doesn’t say these things without being genuinely behind the comments. He is annoyed at the way some oneworld members have responded, as alliance partners. I think this is a genuine threat.
If Qatar Airways announces their leave next year, they must announce their leave a year prior to it taking effect, and they must also pay an exit fee.
Walsh cites that the reason behind Qatar’s leave stems from their ongoing feud with American, and American’s ongoing accusations about the ME3 receiving “unfair subsidies”. While Qatar has violated the Open Skies agreement and dumped seats into the market, American’s argument for it was structured terribly – not to mention that the U.S. subsidises airlines more than any other country out there, including the ME3.
American Airlines is the primary reason for Qatar Airways’ stepping back from oneworld
Despite this, if Qatar Airways does leave oneworld, they will continue to work with IAG and find new partnership opportunities, according to Walsh. Qatar Airways will also keep their 10% stake in Cathay Pacific as of now.
If Qatar Airways does leave oneworld, I believe that will be a tragedy for both the alliance and the airline. Al Baker is overly outspoken at times, though I do support them in their argument with American – it’s not their fault that U.S. airlines have been far too lazy to offer a better product, and have now fallen way behind the growth trajectory of the industry.
Now that Qatar has an ongoing feud with the rest of the Gulf, they’re at a further disadvantage, since they don’t have connecting traffic from the UAE or Saudi Arabia anymore; last year they reported a net loss of $69 million (which was surprisingly low considering the consequences, but a loss is still a loss). They’ll lose further connecting traffic if they do leave oneworld, due to the product’s reduced accessibility. That said, Qatar still has individual ties with many airlines within oneworld, and at least IAG has promised to continue working with them, so hopefully it’ll still be easy to snag a seat on them.
Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Doha Airport
Meanwhile, oneworld will lose one of their airlines offering the best product across all cabins (except, maybe, first class).
We’ll have to see how this plays out.
Would you be bummed to see Qatar Airways leave the oneworld alliance?