Qatar Airways CEO wants to add more members to Oneworld

"Under my leadership, we don't accept anything other than being number one" says the newly-minted Oneworld chair.

By David Flynn, July 22 2021
Qatar Airways CEO wants to add more members to Oneworld

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker wants to see more airlines brought into the Oneworld family, along with a drive to increase Oneworld's profile and branding, as part of an "aggressive" push for the alliance.

The always-outspoken Al Baker is currently Chairman of Oneworld's Governing Board, having been appointed in May 2021 to succeed Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce, who had served in the role since September 2018.

"Under my leadership, we don't accept anything other than being number one," Al Baker told the FlightPlan III webinar hosted by Inmarsat Aviation and aviation trade group APEX.

He said his aim would be to increase the number of members in the alliance, which currently has 14 full members – most recently adding Alaska Airlines to the roster in March 2021 – against the 26 in Star Alliance and 19 in SkyTeam.

More members, more muscle

Oneworld members – with the exception of Qatar Airways, of course – were also letting the side down in promoting Oneworld.

"I think the airline members, minus Qatar Airways, are not branding the alliance in the way it deserves. It is important that we be aggressive and let people know that we are the best."

Al Baker was also optimistic on the rebound of travel in general, and business and premium travel in particular.

"It's like during the financial crisis, which was due to mortgages – people didn't stop mortgaging their properties," he related. "Travel is important in exactly the same way."

"People want to travel and people are ready to pay," Al Baker added, with travel habits already skewing towards business class.

"We have 15-20% more occupants in our premium cabin than pre-pandemic, and our yields and prices are higher than pre-pandemic."

On the fate of Qatar Airways' Airbus A380s, Al Baker reiterated that no more than five of the Gulf carrier's ten superjumbos would return to the skies, and that's if they come back at all.

"The business is not going to turn around that quickly, so there will not be enough passengers to fill them... i we go back to operating them at all, I don’t think it will be more than five."

Also read: Is this the end for Qatar Airways' superb Airbus A380 inflight lounge?

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 603

Qatar will bring back whatever demand dictates. I doubt very much Al Bakr will only reinstate 5 when there is demand for all 10. This is an unknown currently to make any call. It’s not like he has a massive fleet of A380’s. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Sep 2017

Total posts 12

I think adding more airlines to Oneworld is easier than done. 

Firstly, most quality airlines are already part of alliances so it would perhaps be more of a game of luring members from other alliances. I doubt Oneworld is targeting the LCC market.  I think Oneworld should be focusing more on India, Africa and South America but the major airlines are in other alliances and options are limited.

Secondly, existing members would not be open to certain airlines. For example, China Southern would be opposed by CX and JL; El Al would be opposed by QR, etc.

Thirdly, there's a question of whether certain airlines would benefit the alliance. For example, Oman Air, Air Astana and Azerbaijan Airlines have potential but Central Asia would not be a strategic market and take business from QR and S7.

I think Are Lingus rejoining Oneworld may be on cards, despite previous objections, given its part of IAG with BA and IB.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1294

Not sure why China southern would have probable s with CX or JL. The US has multiple members.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 288

I can't see many airlines being added as full members of OneWorld, for many of the reasons mentioned above, as well as that there is a real cost in joining the alliance and plugging into its IT system, and it's not as if airlines are rolling in money at the moment!

Aer Lingus would be a very good fit for OneWorld, it used to be a member years ago and has often been spoken of as potentially rejoining OneWorld since IAG took over.

But apart from a small number of other airlines, is the global market big enough to support many new airlines joining without cannibalizing the market share of existing members? I think we are more likely to see more of those 'OneWorld Connect' members, like Fiji, smaller second-tier airlines which are more 'regional' than international, and each offering some added OneWorld benefits for larger neighboring airlines, like Fiji does with Qantas.

22 Sep 2020

Total posts 9

OW needs a good African airline such as Ethiopian

Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 603

OW never should have let LATAM go-big mistake. I'd definitely go Ethiopian. Gulf Air may have been a good pick in the past but I think too much duplication with QR on board. I'd give China Southern oneworld connect status for dom China ops, CX are way too valuable to lose for any more than that.

OneWorld didn't "let LATAM go." LATAM was forced to leave OneWorld by SkyTeam member airline Delta as a part of Delta taking a 20% stake in LATAM for USD1.9 billion. Too much money for LATAM to ignore!

Taiwan could work for OneWorld. China Airlines is SkyTeam, EVA is Star Alliance, maybe Starlux can join OneWorld?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Oct 2016

Total posts 65

Instead of adding more airlines, they need to work together better, especially QF and QR! QF should give up working with EK and work with it's OW member QR instead...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Mar 2014

Total posts 192

Agreed, I actually avoid EK these days the service is not what it once was and DOH is light years ahead of DXB, except i do prefer the EK lounges to QR.

07 Nov 2020

Total posts 14

Absolutely spot on.  QF and QR should work together and ditch EK.  Also QF and CX have always had a testy relationship and should work better together.  Even QF and JAL don't work together properly.  This is the problem with OneWorld.  QF should also better leverage Finnair in northern Europe.  Finnair is fantastic between Asia and Europe.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Oct 2016

Total posts 65

Agree pity about LATAM... Regardless, I'm happy that overall Akbar is now doing a push and major plug of OW - making him chairman was a great strategy given he'd previously threatened to take QR out!!

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 926

Dealing with Qatar and AAB is hard work.  Having him chairing the alliance has disaster written all over it.  You have to wonder how heads of airlines such as QF, BA and AA are going to respond to his belligerence.   AAB is a living example of the saying "money doesn't equal class."

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 Jan 2018

Total posts 14

I would love to see KLM/Air France being part of OneWorld (KLM is awesome and very reasonably priced!). Having a member from a major airline in South East Asia would be perfect, because Malaysia Airlines' questionable short- to mid-term survivability and its poor safety record. Another player in Africa, say South African airways would be good as I have yet to hear good review about Morocan airlines... Finally, having one of those South/Central America region, as well as  Central Asia region to join OneWorld would be awesome as OneWorld is seriously missing major players there.

That's my wish list as loyal OneWorld member :-).

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 926

I'm one of those who believe global alliances are a construct of the '90s not particularly relevant 25 years later.  Many major airlines (EK, VS etc) choose to not join an alliance whilst many of those in alliances are happy to marry out when it suits them (QF/KL, NZ/CX, QF/EK etc).  The costs of entering the alliances are prohibitive and post-Covid some existing members see their money could be better spent elsewhere.

Anyway, it is hard to see KL/AF going to Oneworld given BA's hub being so close to both of their hubs.  

There aren't that many major SE Asian airlines that aren't on their knees.  GA, MH & TG are all in  various stages of death throes.  The only major SE asian airline that has clear balance sheet strength is SQ which is firmly ensconced in Star even SQ is fairly equivocal when it comes to global alliances anyway.

If Oneworld is going to be a global player, it does need some presence into India from Asia.  It is currently a glaring gap and one which QF has been keenly aware of since the demise of Jet Airways.

NZ Elite

03 Jul 2014

Total posts 110

Ignoring poaching from *A and ST for a moment, who is really left that would fit the current (mostly) premium stable? (Other than Aer Lingus, maybe)

For people who don't know the jargon, *A is travel industry short-hand for Star Alliance and ST is of course SkyTeam.

And yes, I agree that once you rule out poaching from them, the 'premium' ranks are a bit thin. For 'premium' I would think any airline with business class is a starter, Aer Lingus and Taiwan's Starlux would both be a good fit. China Southern also, except that Cathay Pacific would veto it. El Al maybe but Qatar would veto that.


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