Qatar’s national carrier would consider breaking away from the oneworld alliance if fellow member American Airlines continues to “bully” Gulf carriers, CEO Akbar Al Baker has said.
Speaking in California this week at a press conference to mark Qatar Airways’ launch of a direct Doha-Los Angeles route, Al Baker hit out at American carriers that are fighting to restrict the growth of Gulf airlines into the US market.
According to Bloomberg, the official was particularly upset with American Airlines, as the two carriers are part of the same oneworld alliance.
The newswire reports Al Baker as saying his airline won’t allow a situation in which “conditions are no longer conducive to a fair business relationship and mutual respect.”
“We don’t get bullied by anybody. If American does not want to work fairly with us, we will consult the others and we could form our own mini-alliance if we wanted to.”
The CEO has threatened to leave oneworld in the past, but this appears to be the first time he has suggested forming his own airline coalition.
Qatar Airways became the first Gulf carrier to enter an alliance when it joined oneworld in 2013, which enables airlines to more closely coordinate their flights and easily transfer passengers.
However, since then it has been engaging in a war of words with American carriers who accuse Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad of receiving government subsidies and other unfair forms of state support.
Earlier this year, American Airlines, Delta and United Airlines argued that this violates the spirit of the Open Skies Agreement that the US has signed with dozens of countries, including Qatar and the UAE.
That deal allows airlines – rather than government regulators – to determine the frequency and capacity of flights.
The US government continues to investigate those claims.
Meanwhile, many in the airline industry have already chosen sides in the debate, including the International Airlines Group (IAG), which operates British Airways and Iberia.
Last April, IAG – whose largest stakeholder is Qatar – withdrew its membership from the Association of European Airlines (AEA), in a move thought to be an expression of solidarity with Gulf carriers.
Bloomberg states that a new mini-alliance that involves the exit of BA from oneworld could prove problematic for US carriers.