At midnight, Qatar Airways will officially become part of the oneworld alliance, a collective of 11 member airlines from across the world, including industry heavyweights American Airlines and British Airways.
Twelve drummers and a group of traditional Qatari musicians were used as part of a carefully stage-managed “reveal” of a Qatar Airways Boeing 777 emblazoned with the oneworld logo.
The event was attended by Qatar’s Prime Minister, a host of international dignitaries and representatives from all of the other oneworld member airlines.
Qatar Airways is the first Gulf airline to join an alliance. At a press conference today, oneworld CEO Bruce Ashby explained that the alliance had “carefully assessed all options in the region when looking for a partner” and concluded that Qatar Airways was the best overall fit.
While acknowledging the obvious commercial benefits of such an alliance, Ashby was keen to emphasize the benefits he believed passengers would appreciate, including the ability to use frequent flyer points on any other oneworld airline, extended lounge access for the higher tiers of cardholders, and the ability to book trips using several airlines on just one ticket.
Airline alliances are not without detractors, however. Some argue that they restrict competition in the market, driving up prices in areas where member airlines operate together.
Two other oneworld airlines currently operate out of Doha International Airport – Royal Jordanian and British Airways.
British Airways flies to London Heathrow daily, while Qatar Airways currently serves the airport five times each day.
When asked about fears that Qatar Airways’ membership of oneworld might lead to increased fares and/or the dropping of British Airways’ London route, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker told Doha News that he believed that it would “stay the same, as now passengers can choose to fly with another airline, and still claim their frequent flyer points.”
When asked to respond to complaints from Qatar residents about the high cost of tickets for flights departing from Doha compared to connecting flights, Al Baker told us that “he couldn’t wait to answer the question,” before arguing that the airline’s pricing decisions are standard across the industry:
“Go to any of the my competitor airlines. All airlines are more expensive on direct routes. Direct is dearest – we are not different. Other airlines will always have lower fares than the home network.”
To mark the airline’s oneworld membership, Qatar Airways has announced a promotional offer of double Qmiles for Privilege Club card holders from Nov. 15 to Jan. 31, 2014 (excluding the peak flying period of Dec. 20 to Jan. 5).
Credit: Photos by Brian Candy