In a move that may spell unease for the recently consummated relationship between Qantas and Emirates, Qatar Airways has ended months of speculation by announcing its membership of oneworld. Its membership will add 15 new destinations and three countries to the alliance network, bringing the total to 856 destinations and 159 countries served by the 14 member airlines.
Exactly how Qatar and Emirates will relate to Qantas in the oneworld context will be interesting to measure. Alliance membership intrinsically demands member airlines offer cross benefits to customers, however, the 10-year deal between Qantas and Emirates will compete directly with Qatar’s own Middle East hub strategy.
In a clear reference to the potential challenges presented by the new QF/EK relationship, oneworld said in a statement: “oneworld’s flexible approach to bilateral co-operation 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.”
The three airlines and the alliance executive have around 18 months to find solutions to these very real dilemmas: Qatar will inaugurate its oneworld membership after it has transferred its operations to the New Doha International Airport during 2013.
Qatar CEO, Akbar al Baker, said at the announcement “Alliances are playing an increasingly important role in the airline industry today – and that will continue long into the future.” Baker’s comments are at odds with the view recently expressed by Emirates CEO, Tim Clark, that alliances – as they were conceived in the 90s – are no longer as relevant in the 21st century. He confirmed Emirates would not be seeking membership of any of the major alliances.
Qatar Airways, meanwhile, has taken delivery of its first 787-8. A7-BCB is the first of 30 787s on firm order. The airline’s outspoken CEO had earlier lashed Boeing for continual delays and is believed to have entered discussions with rival Airbus for up to 24 A330s, according to FlightGlobal.