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Saturday, March 6, 2021

Qatar Airways to join oneworld next month, six months ahead of schedule

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Qatar Airways will join the oneworld alliance on Oct. 30, six months earlier than expected, the airline has announced.

That means some 3 million members of Qatar Airways’ Privilege Club loyalty program will be able to accrue Qmiles whenever they fly with a oneworld member airline.

Qatar becomes the first among the three big Gulf carriers – including Emirates and Etihad – to join an alliance, a move that allows frequent fliers to gain privileges across a network of airlines, and increases commercial opportunities for the airline itself.

To gain full membership, the national carrier had to complete a review proving its readiness – a process that usually takes around 18 months. But it managed to do this in less than a year, a time frame which the airline claims makes its joining one of the quickest in the alliance.

The airline said it had to carry out projects “to bring its various internal processes and procedures into line with the alliance’s requirements” as part of the review, and to ensure training staff “are ready to provide oneworld’s customer services and benefits.”

Oneworld has 12 other members worldwide, including industry heavyweights American Airlines and British Airways, which paved the way for Qatar Airways’ membership.

Benefits

Privilege Club Platinum cardholders will have Emerald status in the oneworld programme, Gold will be equivalent to oneworld Sapphire, Silver will be the same as oneworld Ruby. Each level has different level of benefits, including lounge access, extra baggage allowance, security lane fast-track and priority check-in.

Burgundy members will be able to claim QMiles and Qpoints on each oneworld partner airline flight, but they will receive no extra privileges. 

The alliance also means passengers flying from Doha on Qatar Airways and wanting to connect onwards with a partner airline can now do so on a single ticket, which will mean smoother transfers and could also prove cheaper in many cases. 

Pitfalls

Although the link-up should be a boon for frequent flyers, it could also that have less welcome consequences.

Some critics believe that alliances actually restrict competition rather than improve the passenger experience, because airlines choose to enter into these agreements primarily for commercial reasons. 

A European Commission report about the impact of airline code-share agreements states:

“It is possible that part of the motivation of carriers in entering into code-share agreements is to allow them, jointly, to dominate a market, allowing capacity to be restricted or prices to be raised (or to remain high), resulting in disadvantages for purchasers and discrimination against other airlines.”

British Airways, for example, could stop flying to Doha from London or raise its fares if an alliance is in place, potentially restricting choice and leading to higher prices for customers flying to the UK from Qatar. 

Emirates and Etihad have so far elected not to join an alliance, choosing instead to forge links with single airlines to extend their networks.

Etihad announced a “strategic partnership” with Air France/KLM last year, and Emirates made a deal with Qantas, under which the Australian airline uses Emirates and its Dubai hub for all of its European connections.

Thoughts?

Credit: Photo by Tom Maglieri

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