Qatar Airways, named Airline of the Year for the past two years by the Skytrax independent airline quality rating agency, is the first of the three major airlines based in the Gulf to sign for any of the global airline alliances. Flanked by Qatar Airways cabin crew celebrating the announcement of the airline joining the oneworld alliance are from left, American Airlines' Chairman and Chief Executive Tom Horton, Chairman of the oneworld Governing Board; Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker; IAG Chief Executive Willie Walsh and oneworld CEO Bruce Ashby
Its election as a oneworld member designate was announced at a press conference in New York – home of oneworld's central alliance management office – with senior executives of Qatar Airways and the alliance's established member airlines in attendance.
Qatar Airways is also the second largest full service airline in the world not, until today, aligned to one of big global airline alliances.
The Doha-based airline's implementation into oneworld is expected to take between 12 and 18 months.
The carrier is set to move into a brand new home in 2013 with the opening of the New Doha International Airport, designed to strengthen its position as a premium global hub with an eventual capacity for 50 million passengers a year.
As a member of oneworld, Qatar Airways will fly alongside some of the biggest and best brands in the airline business. British Airways will serve as its sponsor in joining oneworld, supported by the central oneworld alliance team, mentoring the recruit through its alliance implementation programme.
Qatar Airways will be oneworld's second member airline based in the Middle East, alongside Royal Jordanian, which became the first airline from the region to join any of the global alliances when it boarded oneworld in 2007.
In just 15 years of operations, Qatar Airways has built up a solid international route network flying to key business and leisure destinations worldwide – and winning countless awards for high service levels, including the Five Star accolade given by Skytrax.Shaking hands to Qatar Airways joining the oneworld alliance are airline CEO Akbar Al Baker, second left, and IAG Chief Executive Willie Walsh. With them are American Airlines' Chairman and Chief Executive Tom Horton, Chairman of the oneworld Governing Board (left) and oneworld CEO Bruce Ashby.
Qatar Airways' network serves 120 destinations in 70 countries in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, North and South America, Asia and Australasia, including oneworld hubs Amman, Berlin Tegel, Buenos Aires Ezeiza, Hong Kong, London Heathrow, Madrid, Melbourne, Moscow Domodedovo, New York JFK, Osaka Kansai, Sydney, Tokyo Narita, and the Kuala Lumpur home of oneworld member elect Malaysia Airlines.
Fifteen of its destinations and three countries - Iran, Rwanda and the Seychelles - will be new to the oneworld map. More significantly, Qatar Airways will substantially strengthen oneworld's customer offering by providing superior routing alternatives across many hundreds of city pairs. For example, passengers flying between Asia and Southern Europe or between Asia and Africa will now have convenient one-stop connections not previously available within the oneworld network.
Qatar Airways operates one of the world's youngest and most modern fleets, currently standing at 111 Boeing and Airbus aircraft with an average age of just four years old.
Its addition will increase oneworld's global coverage to 856 destinations in 159 countries, served by a combined fleet of 2,600 aircraft operating more than 9,300 flights and carrying almost a million passengers every day (342 million a year), generating annual revenues of nearly US$ 120 billion.
Qatar Airways already code-shares with oneworld member designate Malaysia Airlines. It will develop bilateral links with more airlines in the alliance as it moves towards becoming a member of the group.
Two established oneworld member airlines currently serve its Doha home – British Airways from its London hub, and Royal Jordanian from its Amman base – along with member elect SriLankan, from its Colombo hub. Opportunities for increasing the alliance's services to Doha will be explored as Qatar Airways prepares to join.
When Qatar Airways becomes part of oneworld, its customers will gain access to the alliance's truly global network. The 2.2 million members of its Privilege Club frequent flyer programme will be able to earn and redeem rewards on any of oneworld's other carriers, with top tier members able to use any of the group's 550 plus airport lounges, and its network will be covered by oneworld's market leading range of alliance fares.
At the same time, the 125 million frequent flyer cardholders of oneworld's established airlines will be able to earn and redeem rewards when flying on Qatar Airways and access Qatar Airways' lounges.What the CEOs say
Among those alongside Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker at today's New York press conference to welcome the airline to oneworld were American Airlines' Chairman and Chief Executive Tom Horton, Chairman of the oneworld Governing Board; Chief Executive of IAG, parent of British Airways and Iberia, Willie Walsh; oneworld CEO Bruce Ashby; and senior representatives from other oneworld member airlines.
Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker said: "Alliances are playing an increasingly important role in the airline industry today – and that will continue long into the future. Qatar Airways has carefully reviewed its strategic options and it is very clear that joining oneworld is by far the best way forward for us as we look to strengthen our competitive offering and give passengers what they fully deserve – more choice. Like Qatar Airways, oneworld is focused on quality and providing the best connections between the places most important to today's frequent international travellers.
"In Qatar Airways' relatively short history, we have quickly established a reputation for innovation, quality and excellence in everything we do, raising standards which our industry peers have watched with envy. We are pleased to build on that by becoming the only major airline from the Gulf to date to be invited to join any of the global airline alliances – and we are proud to have been invited to join the best of them, in oneworld. We look forward to completing all the joining requirements as soon as possible, and to fly alongside some of the best airlines in the world long into the future, bringing heightened benefits offered by oneworld to our customers."
American Airlines' Chairman and Chief Executive Tom Horton, Chairman of the oneworld Governing Board, said: "Quality has always been the hallmark of oneworld, so we are pleased to welcome to our alliance another of the world's highest quality airlines. oneworld aims to be the first choice alliance for frequent international travelers the world over. Adding Qatar Airways will significantly improve our connectivity between many of the destinations that are most important to those customers, so today's agreement with Qatar Airways will enable us to offer even more value."
Willie Walsh, Chief Executive of IAG, parent of British Airways and Iberia, said: "In Qatar Airways, oneworld is pleased to welcome another great airline that will enhance oneworld's network and product offerings in one of the world's fastest growing regions for air travel demand. Its fine reputation for customer service mirrors oneworld's own focus. British Airways is delighted to be serving as the sponsor of Qatar Airways in joining oneworld."
oneworld CEO Bruce Ashby added: "The big three Gulf carriers have been embraced by millions of consumers the world over – just as consumers have embraced global airline alliances. Our own analysis clearly demonstrated that Qatar Airways is the best fit for oneworld's network, requirements, philosophy and strategy. oneworld is delighted to be the first of the global alliances to welcome a member airline from this region, enabling us to be the first to offer consumers the services and benefits offered by both a global alliance and a Gulf carrier. We look forward to welcoming another great airline to oneworld.
"oneworld's flexible approach to bilateral cooperation with carriers outside our alliance means that links already established between our member airlines with other carriers from this region may continue in tandem with Qatar Airways' addition to oneworld, further strengthening the choice and convenience we collectively offer our customers."