Big: American Airlines & Qatar Airways Announce Strategic Partnership

by Giovanni

Despite both being members of the Oneworld Alliance, American Airlines and Qatar Airways have had a downright cold relationship. American Airlines ended all codeshares with Qatar Airways two years ago and rejected Qatar’s attempts to buy up to a 10% stake in its airline. Qatar Airways has been threatening to quit the Oneworld Alliance due to what it viewed as attacks from American Airlines (and Qantas in Australia).

It seems that’s all changing today as the two airlines announce a major strategic partnership.

Codeshare Agreements

American and Qatar announced today that they will renew their codeshare agreement as a first step in a strategic partnership and increased commercial cooperation.

Codeshare Partners American Airlines and British Airways

American Airlines is already close partners with British Airways where Qatar Airways owns a 25% stake. All the carriers are members of the Oneworld alliance.

Subject to government approval, American will place its code on select Qatar nonstop and connecting services to and from the U.S. and Qatar Airways’ hub in Doha. This will allow American’s customers to access new destinations in the Middle East, East Africa, South Asia, and South East Asia not currently served by American.

Qatar will place its code on select flights beyond American’s hubs in Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), Chicago (ORD), New York (JFK), Philadelphia (PHL), Miami (MIA), and Los Angeles (LAX). It will also add its code to international American services to and from Europe, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America.

The airlines used to codeshare but American ended the partnership two years ago alleging unfair subsidies from the Qatari government to Qatar Airways.

American Exploring Doha Flights

Doha Airport Qatar Airways

American Airlines suggested it may add service to Qatar Airways’ hub in Doha following the announcement of its strategic partnership.

As part of the new partnership with Qatar Airways, American is exploring adding flights to Qatar Airway’s Doha hub.

This is interesting given that Qatar already flies to every American hub except Charlotte and Phoenix. Neither Charlotte or Phoenis are international hubs that make sense for a Doha flight. This suggests that any American flight to Doha would be an additional choice on a route already flown by Qatar Airways. That may not be as crazy as it seems. An American flight could not be subject to the Gulf Blockade and take a more direct route to Doha (yielding faster flight times).

Or, as Ben Schlappig at One Mile At A Time suggests, it could be from Seattle given American’s recent moves there including a flight to Bangalore, India.

Here’s what Vasu Raja, senior vice president of network strategy at AA, had to say:

“This partnership with Qatar is another step to increase our connectivity, while providing more choice and making travel easier and more accessible for our customers. As we look to build out a truly global network and create a strong presence in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, the renewed codeshare with Qatar Airways will be one of the cornerstones of making that a reality.”

QSuite - Qatar Airways' new Business Class product

If American launches a route to Doha from any of its major international hubs, it will duplicate services flown by Qatar Airways featuring its industry-leading Q-Suite business class product.

What The CEOs Are Saying

With the years of skirmishes between American and Qatar, it’s interesting to hear American CEO Doug Parker say the issues between the two carriers have been resolved (he doesn’t give specifics):

“Our goal is to continue to expand and deepen our global partnerships to complement American’s network and create more choice for our customers. The issues that led to the suspension of our partnership two years ago have been addressed, and we believe resuming our codeshare agreement will allow us to provide service to markets that our customers, team members and shareholders value, including new growth opportunities for American Airlines. We look forward to the renewed cooperation between our airlines and hope to build an even stronger relationship with Qatar Airways over time.”

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker is excited about moving on and building a partnership with American. This makes sense since Qatar was never the aggressor in the issues between the two carriers:

“We are very pleased to secure this strategic partnership with American Airlines — an agreement between two successful and ambitious airlines with a shared common purpose to enhance the customer experience. The deal will bring together two of the world’s largest airline networks, increasing choices for millions of passengers and providing seamless connectivity to a significant number of new destinations, in line with Qatar Airways’ successful growth strategy. We have moved on from past issues and look forward to working closely with American Airlines to build a world-leading partnership for all our customers. This agreement will harness our complementary strengths and resources and enable more customers to experience Qatar Airways’ award-winning product quality.”

Qatar Airways and American are both major operators of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

The Upshot

With the resolution of the rivalry between American and Qatar, it’s probably safe to say that the chances of Qatar Airways leaving the Oneworld alliance are at an all-time low. This is great news as a Oneworld frequent flyer who frequently flies both American and Qatar.

The new codeshares will allow both airlines to serve destinations that would be unsustainable on their network producing clear consumer upsides. And to say a new American route to Doha is intriguing is an understatement. I’m excited to see where this expanded partnership leads and I’m glad that American is backing away from its ridiculous campaign against Qatar Airways.

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1 comment

Marshall February 25, 2020 - 8:56 am

I would love an interline agreement with Emirates and a return of the codeshare with Etihad.
PHL-DXB could be a money-maker. DFW-AUH on a 787-800 on AA could work also.

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