Qatar Airways believes its entry into Oneworld can help to fill the void created by the partnership of Qantas and Emirates for alliance members like British Airways. The UK airline's parent International Airlines Group says it is already exploring ways of working with the new member-elect.
BA's long-standing joint venture with Qantas is due to be terminated by the Australian airline when it completes its tie-up with Emirates in March next year. The new arrangement will see Qantas switching its stopping point on the Kangaroo route from Singapore to Emirates' hub in Dubai.
IAG's head of strategy and development Geoffrey Weston told delegates at the Arab Air Carriers Organisation AGM in Algiers that any new Oneworld member "helps set the platform" when it joins the alliance. "I'm not allowed to talk too much about our plans but we are exploring a whole bunch of options with Qatar and some of those are of the 'plain vanilla' codeshare type," he said.
The news that Qantas was ending its long-standing tie-up with BA to link up with Emirates was "a piece of news that's been rather exaggerated", says Weston. "It came as much less of a surprise to us than it did to the rest of the world.
"It's clear that the partnership with Emirates can deliver some things to Qantas that BA could not. But BA and Qantas are maintaining a significant codesharing relationship," he added.
Just a month after the Qantas/Emirates deal was unveiled in August, Qatar Airways announced it would become a member of Oneworld - in which BA and Qantas are founding members. Qatar aims to finalise its integration into the alliance within 18 months. Its chief executive, Akbar Al Baker, says when the airline joins Oneworld "we will fill in a small way the gap created by the partnership between Qantas and Emirates".
Although Qatar serves Melbourne and Perth from its Doha hub, it has no plans "to go very heavily to Australia" and will not fly to Sydney, says Al Baker. "We plan to go at least double-daily to these places within the next couple of years. But Qatar Airways is not going to operate to Sydney because we don't like to leave our aircraft hanging around at an airport for 14h, and anyway our other alliance partner BA is already going there."
Weston says that Qatar's entry into Oneworld will allow its capacity to Australia to "become more naturally accessible to every member of the alliance". He adds, however: "If you look at Qatar's network, it has a much smaller reliance on super long-haul routes [than the other Gulf carriers]. It has proportionally less capacity to the USA and Australia than Etihad and Emirates."