Qatar Airways has officially joined Oneworld today, bringing more than 20 new destinations in five countries to the alliance's network while linking members of its loyal programme with those of 12 other airlines including Cathay Pacific, British Airways, Japan Airlines and Qantas (see story).
Flanked by his counterpart from British Airways Willie Walsh and Bruce Ashby from Oneworld, Qatar Airways' chief executive Akbar Al Baker said: "As I have said for several years, alliances are the way airlines have to go," he said. But as recent as last year, rumours had it that the airline was more likely to join Star Alliance, the largest in terms of membership, because it maintained bilateral partnerships with some prominent Star airlines.
When asked by Business Traveller as to how the decision to join Oneworld, the smallest of the three major alliances, came about, he said: "Yes, we were codesharing with a number of Star airlines but I also said at the time, we are a young airline, we will wait and choose the best alliance we should join, and the one that we can add the best value to. Being a high-class airline, we also wanted to join a high-class airline alliance."
Ashby, on the other hand, added that although Oneworld is the smallest in terms of number of airlines, "... our members are quite effectively connecting the most important cities in the world, so we are one airline away from being number one in terms of revenue in that most important business."
"The other thing that I think works for our member airlines and possibly also Qatar Airways is our flexibility of allowing members to form relationships that work for the airlines and the alliance. So instead of telling a member what they can't do, we encourage them to do what's right for them. I think that winning combination is partly responsible for why we are expanding so rapidly."
Al Baker added jokingly: "And you know we never get bullied by anybody."
Ashby also pointed out that Qatar Airways' joining of the Oneworld will drastically increase the alliance's revenue passenger kilometres in Africa, Middle East and India.
From today onwards, Privilege Club Platinum and Gold members have access to 550 airport lounges worldwide offered by Oneworld member airlines when they fly with one of the alliance's carriers. Qatar Airways' First and Business Class passengers will also be able to use Oneworld partner airline lounges.
Al Baker also announced that to mark the occasion, for the next two months, Privilege Club members will earn twice the usual mileage points when flying with Oneworld airlines, and the other way around, Oneworld frequent flyer programme members will also enjoy the same perk when flying Qatar Airways.
Walsh of BA, which is the sponsor of Qatar Airways' membership, recounted the most recent developments: "The journey started 18 months ago when Airberlin, the second largest airline in Germany, joined Oneworld."
What followed was LATAM endorsing Oneworld, which resulted in LAN's membership from in October 1 and announcement of TAM joining the alliance next March (see story). Most recently, SriLankan has been announced as the newest member-to-be (see story), with official confirmation expected for 2014. "SriLanken will be Oneworld's first member in the south continent," Walsh said.
If the merger of American Airlines and US Airways materialises, pending the result of an ongoing court case, the latter will transition to Oneworld.
Oneworld's other members are Cathay Pacific Airways, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Royal Jordanian and S7 Airlines, as well as some 30 affiliated airlines. The alliance's members and members-elect serve some 860 airports in almost 160 countries, with more than 9,300 daily departures.