Qantas to Qatar Airways: Leave Oneworld If You’re Not Happy

Nov 15, 2018

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After weeks of Qatar Airways threatening to leave the Oneworld airline alliance, fellow Oneworld member airline Qantas has a message for Qatar’s seemingly indecisive CEO: Leave if you’re not happy.

“Nobody should be in an alliance where they believe it’s not working for them,” Qantas CEO Alan Joyce told the South Morning China Post this week. “If Qatar feel they do better outside of Oneworld, that is up to them.”

Qatar CEO Akbar al Baker has said several times throughout October that the gulf carrier he helms will pull out of Oneworld, mainly due to issues with partner airlines American and Qantas. Al Baker has said that both airlines have been unsupportive — American because of lingering tensions after the hotly contested Open Skies agreement, in which major US airlines had accused government-run Qatar of using state aid to compete unfairly; Qantas he accuses of impeding upon Qatar’s entry into the Australia market.

“And [Qantas] is blocking us getting rights into Australia,” al Baker said in an October interview with Flight Global. “So what is the point of us being in this alliance if it is only in the interest of a few and the interest of the rest is compromised?”

Qantas also seems to be harboring a grudge against Qatar over the Doha-based carrier’s government subsidies. “Our view has been very simple, we’re after fair competition,” Joyce told the Post, noting that by fair competition, he meant that airlines be economically independent and not receive state financial aid.

“If aviation was governed by the World Trade Organization, there would be some dumping cases against people for going in well below cost to force people off routes and markets. We think those rules should apply to aviation markets,” Joyce said. He also added that Qantas passengers would not suffer if Qatar backed out of the group. “People have a lot of choice on the Qantas-coded network to get to the same European points that they had been using Qatar,” he said.

But it’s not just Qantas that Qatar has beef with. Al Baker says American Airlines has been “targeting,” “slandering” and “giving misinformation to the US government about Qatar Airways,” al Baker said in an early October interview with Flight Global.

In a mid-October interview with TPG managing editor Alberto Riva, al Baker threw punches at American, saying they weren’t living up to the nature of an alliance.

“We are waiting to see what will be the outcome of the ultimatum we have given to the Oneworld administration. We have told them that we are constantly being targeted by a Oneworld partner,” al Baker said. “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. On the contrary, rumors have been constantly spread. The US government is being approached with lame excuses to restrict our investments, our growth. So what is the point?”

“We are of course aware of these latest comments that have been reported in the media,” Oneworld vice president for corporate affairs Michael Blunt told TPG in an October email. “As in any family, there are differences of opinion from time-to-time between individual members of the alliance. We always hope that they can be resolved quickly so all parties can come together to focus on the key issue for us all — providing great service for our customers all around the world.”

Qatar leaving its airline alliance would not be an unprecedented move. In fact, on Thursday, a separate airline left a different group of partner airlines because it didn’t see the benefits either. A source from China Southern airlines told Reuters that effective Jan. 1, 2019, the carrier would be pulling out from the SkyTeam alliance because it is too expensive to be a partner of the group relative to the benefits it receives.

Featured image by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images for Qatar Airways.

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