Qatar Airways will become a member of oneworld, making it the first Gulf carrier to join an airline alliance.
The Doha-based airline’s election as a oneworld member designate was announced yesterday at a press conference in New York, attended by senior executives of Qatar Airways and the alliance’s existing members. Qatar Airways’ implementation into oneworld is expected to take between 12 and 18 months.
“Alliances are playing an increasingly important role in the airline industry today, and that will continue long into the future. Qatar Airways has carefully reviewed its strategic options and it is very clear that joining oneworld is by far the best way forward for us as we look to strengthen our competitive offering and give passengers what they fully deserve – more choice. Like Qatar Airways, oneworld is focused on quality and providing the best connections between the places most important to today’s frequent international travellers,” Qatar Airways’ CEO Akbar Al Baker said in New York.
“We look forward to completing all the joining requirements as soon as possible, and to fly alongside some of the best airlines in the world long into the future, bringing heightened benefits offered by oneworld to our customers,” he added.
Qatar Airways currently serves 120 destinations in 70 countries. Fifteen of its destinations and three countries – Iran, Rwanda and the Seychelles – will be new to the oneworld route map. More significantly, Qatar Airways will substantially strengthen oneworld by providing routing alternatives across many hundreds of city pairs, via Doha. For example, passengers flying between Asia and southern Europe or between Asia and Africa will now have one-stop connections not previously available within the alliance’s network.
The carrier is set to move into the New Doha International Airport next year, which will eventually have a capacity for 50 million passengers a year.
“The big three Gulf carriers have been embraced by millions of consumers the world over – just as consumers have embraced global airline alliances. Our own analysis clearly demonstrated that Qatar Airways is the best fit for oneworld’s network, requirements, philosophy and strategy. oneworld is delighted to be the first of the global alliances to welcome a member airline from this region, enabling us to be the first to offer consumers the services and benefits offered by both a global alliance and a Gulf carrier. We look forward to welcoming another great airline to oneworld,” said oneworld’s CEO, Bruce Ashby.
“oneworld’s flexible approach to bilateral cooperation with carriers outside our alliance means that links already established between our member airlines with other carriers from this region may continue in tandem with Qatar Airways’ addition to oneworld, further strengthening the choice and convenience we collectively offer our customers,” he added.
Qatar Airways’ entry into oneworld follows the carrier’s denial of such rumours last week, and marks a significant coup for the alliance. oneworld is currently the smallest of the three airline groups in terms of memberships numbers, with only 11 existing carriers compared to SkyTeam’s 18 and Star Alliance’s 27. It does however, include several major national carriers including Qantas, Cathay Pacific, JAL, British Airways and American Airlines, which have the potential to boost Qatar Airways’ reach in Asia Pacific, Europe and the US. The presence of LAN Airlines meanwhile, gives Qatar Airways a foothold in the expanding Latin American market.
For oneworld however, Qatar Airways’ entry gives the alliance access to one of the world’s fastest-growing route networks, a modern and expanding fleet, and a major transit hub in the Gulf – something not offered by either SkyTeam or Star.