Oneworld, founded in 1999, is the third largest airline alliance globally. Its member carriers include American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, Qatar Airways, and others, serving over 158 countries. Oneworld’s slogan is “An alliance of the world’s leading airlines working as one.”
Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways, made waves when he told reporters on Thursday, October 18, that the state-owned carrier is considering pulling out of the Oneworld global airline alliance and intends to privatize in the next decade.
This announcement is just the latest move in a series of disputes between Middle Eastern carriers and American ones, and some see Al Baker’s threat to leave Oneworld, of which American Airlines is a founding member, as retaliation for American’s decision to end code-sharing (a practice in which two airlines operate the same flight) with Qatar Airways earlier this year. In addition, American refused an offer from Qatar Airways to buy a 10 percent stake in its company last summer.
Al Baker accused American of creating “bad feeling” via these decisions, but also expressed continued interest in investing in a US-based carrier. He might not find ready customers in the other two biggest US airlines, however, as both Delta and United have previously joined American in pushing back against the expansion of Middle Eastern carriers.
CNBC reports that Oneworld spokesman Michael Blunt is urging both sides to resolve their conflict without harming the alliance. He issued the following public statement: “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.”