Oneworld in membership talks with “several airlines”

The alliance chairman says there’s always more room at the Oneworld table, beginning with Oman Air.

By David Flynn, October 20 2021
Oneworld in membership talks with “several airlines”

Several new airlines could join the Oneworld alliance as the group seeks to swell its numbers to close the gap against rivals SkyTeam and Star Alliance.

Oneworld currently has 14 airlines as full members – the most recent being Royal Air Maroc in 2020 and Alaska Airlines in 2021 – with SkyTeam at 18 and the dominant Star Alliance group at a thundering 26.

Airlines ranging from Oman Air to Taiwanese startup Starlux and Alitalia successor ITA are among the unaligned 'free agents' which have said they want to join forces with a global alliance.

Oneworld chairman and Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker says he is already in discussions with several airlines, including Oman Air, "because it is my duty towards my members to grow our alliance."

"I've been talking to several (airlines) to become part of Oneworld," Al Baker tells Executive Traveller, adding that "collectively you are always strong."

Despite the close proximity of Oman and Jordan to Qatar – the nations flank either end of the Arabian Peninsula – Al Baker says "even if (airlines) are in the same area, there is so much opportunity."

"For example, we work very closely with Royal Jordanian, we code-share with them, we have grown our business tremendously, and we see that there is still room to include others."

Boosting the Oneworld brand

Beyond growing the Oneworld roster, Al Baker also wants to increase awareness of the alliance itself, beginning with ensuring that current members are waving the flag.

"My job is to continue the good work my dear friend Alan (Joyce) has already done for Oneworld," Al Baker said, in a nod to the Qantas CEO who was his predecessor from September 2018 to May 2021.

"I would like Oneworld to continue to be more prominent, to be very visible, and we want the brand to be really recognised... when you look at what we in Qatar Airways are doing for Oneworld, I want all the other airlines to do the same."

"Every single branding of Qatar Airways, you see there is (also) a Oneworld logo. Every staff in our aircraft have to wear the Oneworld badge. On all print material, we have the Oneworld badge."

"We want it to be recognised as a brand that has quality airlines. We have the IAG Group, we have Cathay Pacific, we have a lot of very well-branded airlines, so we want to promote the brand and keep on growing it."

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1195

Oneworld has a distinct weakness in its poor representation in Europe with members whose hubs are on the edge on the continent but no presence in central Europe.  Getting more minor members in the Middle East won't address this at all.  You can understand why they may be courting ITA to join them rather than Skyteam or Star.  

I love the expression "dear friend"for AJ.  It makes him sound like the next leader of North Korea.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 12

Totally agree. MALEV and AirBerlin were attempts to plug the hole but unfortunately both went pear shape. 

I flew AB a couple times but they were essentially a LCC intra Europe but surprisingly recognised status PAX. I once had three or more entire front rows of seats to myself as a QF Platinum while my work colleagues were back of bus on a flight from DUS to CPH.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Jan 2017

Total posts 25

In all fairness, the only difference between British Airways and Air Berlin in economy was that AB didn't have lounges. Well maybe also that oversized shed at Tegal with one food kiosk was also a pain on regular air traffic control strike inspired delays. I found AB (and Niki) had moved from an LCC to a standard airline, particularly as you mentioned when you had oneworld status. The team in DUS were fantastic in changing you to other more convenient flights if your connecting flight was early or late.

Yes please to ITA and Starlux, both would be great additions to the Oneworld family. Maybe also Philippine Airlines once it digs itself out of bankruptcy, it's not exactly a 'five star airline' but then not all airlines in all alliances are!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Oct 2016

Total posts 91

Funny words from AB! Given he was threatening to leave OW at one stage!! And also funnier words about AJ given what he's said about him before when he favoured EK rather than QR... That said I'm very happy that AB is pushing OW and commiting to it rather than wanting out! Just need QF to work closer with QR now...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Sep 2017

Total posts 17

This is exciting. Both Oman Air and Starlux would make great OneWorld members.

I'm not sold on ITA - just not convinced they can provide a quality product like Finnair. While Philippine Airlines has a lot of long-haul flights to the US, I'm not sure about the product quality. Given its current bankruptcy, it could be another Mexicana situation (joined Oneworld but never flew before collapsing).

Putting aside the various factors that go into choosing members or Connect partners, I would not mind seeing the following airlines for consideration: China Southern, Indigo, Air Mauritius, Air Austral, Air Astana, Azerbaijan Airlines, GOL, Azul, Air Tahiti Nui, Aer Lingus, Icelandair, and El Al.

07 Nov 2020

Total posts 39

Agree about Finnair.  It's my preferred airline between Asia and Europe and also within Europe - even if I have to go via Helsinki (within reason, anyway).

I also think China Southern is very likely to join OneWorld at some point.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Sep 2017

Total posts 17

There are reports that ITA has signaled its intention to join Skyteam, pending it establishing a new loyalty program (which it will name Volare).

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 685

Europe: To my mind, oneworld need to do more work on their European headquarters of Spain where Iberia is meant to reign supreme.  Madrid to much of Europe is fine, but the changes made in Barcelona withdrawing numerous IB services and focusing heavily on LCC traffic has left this important hub city almost devoid of higher quality services. The quicker that IAG/BA is able to finalize the Air Europa takeover (hmm, technically a merger), the better. 

The chances of LCC Vueling being admitted to oneworld is about the same as Jetstar being added - oneworld subsidiary at best, given the absence of J class cabins on domestic services.

Middle Western Europe ~ not a great selection to choose from, unless you can snag Poland's LOT, Bulgaria's Bulgaria Air  or Romania's TAROM. The latter two are small carriers which operate as European feeder carriers. There's this tiny issue of the substantial German 'Star Alliance' moat and the almost complementary Skyteam European splash. So, for oneworld to expand / grow in Europe, they would need to either concentrate on disaffected carriers such as LOT or Turkish ... or alternatively pick up some small regional feeder carriers.

Middle East: While Etihad is restructuring / downsizing could theoretically appeal to oneworld, the combination of Qatar Air and possibly Oman Air would seemingly be more attractive. And it would be difficult to consider AAB recommending the addition of what was once a strong competitor (and one which could conceivably be merged into Emirates (EK) a number of years down the track). 

India: There are interesting suggestions that Jet Airways is on the edge of a serious re-launch, having emerged from it's prior bankruptcy. That would be a definite option, should the service and quality levels echo the previous iteration. A second option would be to woo Tata, the new (and original founder airline) of Air India. I could see the possibility of an entirely new mindset and management strategy up-ending what was previously a moribund carrier.

China: As soon as things start to normalize in China, my tip would be for AAB / oneworld to start talking with China Southern as a primary choice. Everyone has been expecting this for the past 2 years - and the exit from Skyteam is now complete.

Asia : Owner Lucien Tan announced yesterday that he is pumping an additional Ps12.8 billion pesos (USD $251 million in fresh, additional capital to the parent company of Phillipine Airlines, in return for additional equity. Given their bankruptcy proceedings in the USA and the recently culled European network, I am thinking that there are other preferred alternatives in the region. 

Obviously, there are sensitivities due to the proximity of Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific, one could look at South Korea for future expansion. While Korean Air is absorbing Asiana, between them they have 10 subsidiary companies including Air Busan etc. It would be a reasonable assumption to see the Korean Government possibly invoke some divestiture order(s) to prevent Korean Airlines becoming an absolute monopoly.

Australia / New Zealand / South Pacific: How about Bonza Airlines joining oneworld? Just kidding. 

oneworld has a satisfactory and sizeable chunk of our market, via Qantas. New Zealand is committed Star material, so it would be sensible for oneworld to perhaps look at Air Neu Guinea, as a possible 'Connect' member. Its route structure has grown somewhat slowly but impressively to now include parts of Asia and islands of the Pacific. With the South Pacific, Air New Zealand has substantial 'Star' influence, so it would not hurt oneworld to replicate its Fiji Airways addition, by possibly adding someone small like Real Tonga Airlines to add connectivity once COVID abates. Problem is, oneworld (and their opposition) would need to substantially review their joining fees for these small, island-based carriers.

North America: Whilst ably served by American Airlines and now Alaska Airlines, Canada is a sadly lacking country wehn it comes to oneworld coverage. Sure, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal etc. are served via AA and AS from the USA, but there is scant domestic coverage between Canadian cities. Perhaps, Porter Airlines (based in Toronto) could be considered as a Connect partner? Westjet apparently seems to no longer be an option.

Central America: Once again, Mexico seems to rely on services emanating from the USA. Mexicana isn't coming back any time soon, so time to start looking. It could also be smart to consider inviting Cubana to consider joining onworld, which when combined with the strength of AA's Cuban services, would give oneworld a total lock on the Cuban market. Long term strategy, but one that should begin to pay off within 8-10 years. ' Connect' (with reduced fees) would be the way to go, with AA as the sponsoring carrier.

South America: It would seem to me that the natural fit her would be GOL of Brasil. A well-established carrier of size, safe operator and has remained profitable for many years. American Airlines has a substantial set of agreements with GOL and has FF interoperability in both directions. The only problem here is that GOL currently doesn't have a Business Class cabin. However, the route structure to everywhere in South America is the only carrier to come anywhere near LATAM.

On the subject of LATAM, given the ongoing bankruptcy where Delta (DL 20%) and Qatar (10%) are the two largest shareholders, could LATAM, choose to re-examine its decision to leave oneworld? Personally, it would not surprise me to see this happen. 

Ever since LATAM left oneworld for Delta (SkyTeam) it has been an absolute trail of tragedy. Handing off brand new (delivered and undelivered) A350 frames to Delta, chaos city in terms of established routes to Miami (versus DL's favoured and preferred Atlanta headquarters), the Chilean Government going cold on both AA and DL inspired 'agreements' with LATAM, subsequent bankruptcy and now the out of the blue COVID disruption. A real taste of the option looking greener over the fence - but not being so green, once you got to the other side.

Africa: Whilst the addition of Royal Air Maroc has improved oneworld's connectivity somewhat, Africa still presents some interesting options. One is Kenya Airways - a progressive, modern carrier with previously excellent cabin services. Has fallen on hard times prior to COVID and is known to be a SkyTeam member. Happy or Not? I suspect the latter.

Ethiopian Airlines and South African Airways could also be interesting 'knock-off' targets. SAA due to their Government bankruptcy bailout and total restructuring, which is under significant pressure. Ethiopian seems an entirely different case - a successful airline - and the only real 'growth' player on the continent could be a unifying carrier within the African continent, if given half the chance. With the number of Covid-inspired bankruptcies in Africa in the past 18-20 months, this may be more important than people realise.

Conclusion: there will always be those that are critical of alliances and accuse them of being out-dated, out-moded etc. But one think is for certain: over the next few years, emergence from Covid, growth and profitability are going to depend on interoperability, consistent product and unified standards. In short, these tightly woven alliances will prove their worth rather than the simple act of interlining.

For that reason, AAB should not needlessly focus on the number of oneworld member carriers. What will prove to be of most value is 'fixing the holes' in alliance route structures and networks. That is where the true profit comes from.

Epic comment, Kimshep, it's longer than the article LOL

I agree that this can't just be about numbers, and not only because OneWorld has a long way to go before it can be as big or bigger than Star Alliance, and that in itself shouldn't be the goal. OneWorld needs to focus on identifying and filling those 'holes' as you say.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 685

Thanks for your kind comment LostInTransit,

Actually the problem of 'holes' in alliances isn't unique to oneworld. If you look at Australia as an easy example, both SkyTeam and Star Alliance have specific disadvantages in terms of internal domestic connectivity. Sure, you can fly from Seoul to Sydney, but what connectivity do you have on SYD-ASP/ADL/PER etc? Interline yes, but that doesn't always accord with seamless alliance integration. That is somewhat endemic to the individual philosophies of all of the three major alliances:

oneworld sees to aim for and have broad global coverage with emphasis on premium classes and consistent experience between member carriers. Highly developed FF tier structure and interoperability.

Star Alliance likes the 'most toys in the box' strategy. More members than the other alliances but smaller members are promoted as equals of the majors, which sometimes leads to inconsistency of service between carriers. Less developed FF tier structure but sometimes benefits between major member carriers can be better than OW. Or, sometimes can be more restrictive.

SkyTeam is primarily a northern hemisphere alliance. Service to the southern hemisphere is limited generally to long-haul routes originating in the northern hemisphere and landing in one or two points in Australia or Africa. Aerolineas Argentinas is the sole, sizeable, southern hemisphere exception here, but Buenos Aires really isn't the best connecting point on the South American continent. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Sep 2017

Total posts 17

Very insightful thread, kimshep. Thank you.

British Airways - Executive Club

28 Mar 2014

Total posts 72

Grear thread.  I think I read that QR is considering buying or investing in Rwandair.  That nay help fill a few smaller African destinations, as well as improving the Rwandair onboard experience 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Sep 2017

Total posts 17

Rwandair could have a lot of potential if QR were to invest and build it up. It has quite an extensive network of African destinations that are not already covered by RAM, while also flying long-haul to London, Brussels and Dubai. QR also connects KGL with Doha and the greater QR network.

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