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IAG to preserve Qatar ties if carrier quits Oneworld

IAG expects to maintain its co-operation with Qatar Airways, even as it predicts that the Middle Eastern carrier will drop out of the Oneworld alliance.

Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker had revealed to FlightGlobal in October that the airline was considering withdrawing from Oneworld.

IAG appears virtually resigned to this possibility. Chief executive Willie Walsh, speaking during a capital markets event on 2 November, said a Qatar Airways split from Oneworld was "highly likely".

"[Al Baker] doesn't say these things without being genuine behind the comments," says Walsh.

"He's annoyed with the way some members of Oneworld have responded to them as an alliance partner – he doesn't believe it's appropriate."

Al Baker had previously expressed to FlightGlobal an irritation with American Airlines and Qantas.

Qatar Airways holds a share of around 20% in IAG, while the Qatari sovereign wealth fund is a 20% stakeholder in IAG member British Airways' London Heathrow base.

But Walsh says a withdrawal from the alliance "won't, in any way, have an impact on [IAG's] relationship" with Qatar Airways.

"We would be happy to continue working with [Al Baker] on areas of co-operation," he says, whether Qatar is an alliance partner or a shareholder.

British Airways has benefited from wet-leased Qatar Airways aircraft, while its own Boeing 787s have been undergoing engine work.

Walsh adds that Aer Lingus was able to take advantage of an Airbus A330 which Qatar released early, and which was swiftly switched – in the same configuration, without any major modification – to the Irish carrier for the peak season. "We're looking at areas of co-operation like that," says Walsh.

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