Oneworld alliance executives believe the grouping's flexibility to allow its partners to work with airlines from outside the alliance is a key in attracting premium member airlines.
Qatar Airways today became the latest airline to join the alliance. While Qatar is the first of the Gulf majors to join a global alliance, all three have links with Oneworld. Qantas has embarked on a deep partnership with Emirates, ending its longstanding co-operation with British Airways on kangaroo routes, while Etihad owns a stake in Oneworld carrier Air Berlin – which in turn has begun co-operating with SkyTeam carrier Air Fance-KLM.
"We have adopted a flexible approach," says Oneworld chief executive Bruce Ashby. "This flexibility is appreciated by our airlines and customers. There is no reason these bilateral relationships cannot exist alongside each other. We want our members to have strong businesses.
"Instead of telling our members what they can't do, we encourage them to do the right thing for their businesses."
Qatar Airways itself has had a number of codeshares with Star Alliance carriers, but chief executive Akbar Al Baker says the timing was right to join Oneworld. "We are a young airline. [We] waited and chose the best alliance and the one to which we can add the best value," he says.
Qatar Airways is the 13th member of the alliance, though TAM, SriLankan Airlines and US Airways – merger approval allowing – will follow next year.
"We may have fewer airline, but our members are effective at connecting the biggest [business market] cities," says Ashby.
"Qatar brings to Oneworld a very attractive network that complements the networks of existing members," says Ashby, noting around 70% of Qatar's network covers the Middle East, Africa and the Indian subcontinent.