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​Frustrated Al Baker threatens Qatar Oneworld withdrawal

Qatar Airways will pull out of the Oneworld alliance if certain partner airlines continue with unfounded accusations and blocking tactics, warns group chief executive Akbar Al Baker.

“This whole shenanigan has to stop, it has gone too far,” Al Baker tells FlightGobal. “If Qatar Airways leaves Oneworld it will send a very wrong message to the world about alliances.”

Oneworld chief executive Rob Gurney has asked for the opportunity to try to resolve the situation, Al Baker says. “I will wait for him to come back before deciding what to do.”

Al Baker’s growing frustration is with Oneworld members American Airlines and Qantas, who he believes are not behaving how fellow alliance partners should, he says.

“The whole idea behind an alliance is to work together to support each other like a family. But I don’t think that is any more the spirit of the alliance, especially since American Airlines is continuously targeting Qatar Airways, slandering Qatar Airways, giving misinformation to the US government about Qatar Airways. And now it is targeting our investment in Air Italy at very high level government interaction, claiming that we are cheating on the open-skies agreement that we signed with the US government.”

Asked about the situation, a spokesperson for the US carrier says: “American is a founding member of Oneworld and we hope the alliance’s membership remains intact."

Al Baker is also unhappy with Qantas’s behaviour, which has an extensive tie-up with Gulf rival Emirates while its relationship with Qatar is “trivial”, he says. “And it is blocking us getting rights into Australia. So what is the point of us being in this alliance if it is only in the interest of a few and the interest of the rest is compromised?”

Regarding claims that Qatar Airways is not complying with the terms of the open-skies agreement signed by US and Qatari governments in January which prevents fifth-freedom flights, Al Baker says the airline is “very satisfied” with the pact and “has not violated” it.

Qatar Airways holds a 49% stake in Air Italy (the former Meridiana) but Al Baker is adamant that there is no intention to use the airline and its Milan Malpensa hub for fifth-freedom flights.

“Qatar Airways does not codeshare with Air Italy beyond Milan, we do not transfer passengers beyond Milan and we have no intention of doing it in the future,” he says.

“Air Italy is just a strategic investment similar to the investment we have with IAG. And [AA] is a JV (joint-venture) partner of IAG without realising typically that we own 21% of their JV. So we are their partner and I don’t mean to undermine that partnership.”

Qatar Airways has pursued a global investment strategy, securing stakes in IAG, LATAM and Cathay Pacific, says Al Baker. “So I really don’t need to get involved [in Oneworld].”

Qatar Airways joined Oneworld in 2013, becoming the alliance's 13th member and the second Middle Eastern member alongside Royal Jordanian.

Source: Cirium Dashboard