Qatar Airways entry into the Oneworld alliance will not block bilateral partnerships between the alliance's member airlines and other Gulf carriers, as both American Airlines and Qantas Airways pursue partnerships with Emirates.
Bruce Ashby, chief executive of the alliance, says that member airlines are free to form partnerships outside the alliance that benefit them and their customers, at a ceremony announcing Qatar's entry into Oneworld in New York on 8 October.
"Oneworld has adopted a flexible approach to bilateral cooperation with carriers outside the alliance, simply because flexibility is appreciated by our customers," he says. "There is no reason why these bilateral relationships can't coexist alongside and in fact augment our alliance proposition by addressing specific needs."
In the Gulf region, Qantas and Emirates announced a wideranging bilateral partnership on flights between Australia and Europe in September. American has a codeshare with Etihad Airways and an interline agreement with the Dubai-based carrier, though it is in talks with Emirates regarding a broader codeshare.
Both Emirates and Etihad compete with Qatar on connecting traffic through the Gulf.
Qatar and Oneworld officially announced the airline's election as a member designate at the ceremony in New York, as previously reported by Flightglobal on 28 September. Sponsored by British Airways and Iberia parent International Airlines Group (IAG), the carrier is expected to become a full member in 12 to 18 months.
"Our detailed analysis clearly indicated that Qatar Airways was the best overall fit for Oneworld and can deliver the biggest benefits to the alliance," says Willie Walsh, chief executive of IAG, at the event.
Akbar Al Baker, chief executive of Qatar, says that the airline will expand and add destinations in cooperation with its new Oneworld partners. In the USA, he notes that the carrier will launch service to American's hub at Chicago O'Hare in April 2013 but declines to comment on whether it is planning service to American's hubs at either Dallas-Fort Worth or Miami.
"We always go for people that are goldsmith, not for people that are scrap dealers," says Al Baker on Qatar's decision to join Oneworld and not one of the other global alliances.