Al Baker lauds Walsh’s attitude to the rise of the Gulf carriers

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Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker has played down speculation over the catalyst for his carrier's entry to the Oneworld alliance, while hinting that a positive attitude to Gulf airlines by one of its leading lights facilitated the move.

He also said he is hopeful of fast-tracking the 12-18 month joining process that has been tentatively agreed.

Al Baker told the Aviation Club in London on 17 October: "Oneworld chose us. We never go to parties uninvited".

But he indicated that the pragmatic attitude displayed by Willie Walsh, chief executive of Oneworld member International Airlines Group, towards the Gulf carriers had paved the way for the agreement.

Al Baker urged his critics "to learn from Walsh", adding: "He has been an admirer of the Gulf carriers, and I would like to thank him for standing up to his beliefs; being vocal about the dynamism that the Gulf is bringing to the global aviation industry."

He went on to say that a string of recent tie-ups with established rivals shows that the world had "woken up to the advent of the Gulf carriers. As the old saying goes, if you can't beat them, join them. That's what we have seen Europe succumb to."

Qatar Airways became a member elect of Oneworld on 8 October with IAG-owned British Airways as its sponsor.

"The next 12-18 months will be a period of close cooperation and consolidation," said Al Baker. "We'll be integrating our systems, our loyalty programmes, and our processes, towards achieving full integration - hopefully sooner than the minimum 12 months that we've targeted collectively."