Qatar Airways could withdraw from oneworld as early as next year as tensions continue to simmer with its fellow alliance members. Speaking in New York on October 18, the Doha-based flag carrier’s CEO Akbar Al Baker emphasised the importance of the group, but revealed growing frustration with American Airlines in particular.
“In June 2013, we joined oneworld. We were invited by American Airlines and British Airways together. Unfortunately, [American Airlines] is now talking against Qatar Airways,” Al Baker said. He earlier told Flight Global: “The whole idea behind an alliance is to work together to support each other like a family. But I don’t think that is any more the spirit of the alliance, especially since American Airlines is continuously targeting us, slandering us, and giving misinformation to the US government about Qatar Airways. And now it is targeting our investment in Air Italy at very high-level government interaction, claiming that we are cheating on the open skies agreement that we signed with the US government.”
The spat stems from long-running allegations by American, Delta Airlines and United Airlines that the ‘big three’ Gulf carriers – Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Emirates – are using illegal subsidies to compete unfairly. The Middle East airlines have repeatedly disputed this position and, earlier this year, agreed to publish financial statements and limit their expansion in the US in a bid to thaw relations between the groups.
Al Baker is also understood to be unhappy with fellow oneworld member Qantas, which has an extensive partnership agreement with Gulf rival Emirates.
Elsewhere, Qatar Airways is to add extra capacity to its long-haul fleet after converting five of its outstanding Airbus A350-900 orders to the larger -1000. The move is intended in part to mitigate the effect of ongoing restrictions on flights imposed by neighbouring Arab states, amid a continuing political dispute between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Bahrain