Qantas Doesn’t Mind If Qatar Airways Leaves Oneworld

Qatar Airways has been raving that they are going to leave Oneworld air alliance any day now, claiming that they don’t need the group and that they would do much better on their own.

They have been specifically calling out airlines such as American Airways and Qantas, who are both founding members of Oneworld, along with Cathay Pacific (Who might also be leaving) and British Airways.

Of course, these members of Oneworld have been rather silent on the issue until now.

What does Qantas think of Qatar leaving Oneworld?

Alan Joyce, the Irish CEO of Qantas, the Australian Airline, has never been one to mix words. He is famously known for making Jetstar (Qantas’s low-cost carrier and rival to Tiger Air) incredibly profitable throughout Asia and additionally for his controversial action of grounding the entire Qantas fleet to call the pilot unions bluff.

As for Qatar:

“If they decide to leave, it is because it is no longer working for them. Nobody should be in an alliance where they believe its not working for them. If Qatar feel they do better outside of Oneworld, that is up to them,” Joyce said to South China Morning Post

Why is Qatar angry with Qantas?

There are two major reasons why Qatar feels they have an issue with Qantas.

  • Qantas and Emirates Alliance
  • Qantas’ reaction to Qatar Australian Expansion

Let’s unpack these.

The first issue is that Qantas has been incredibly buddy buddy with a fellow middle eastern airline, Emirates. In fact, Qantas and Emirates have a strategic partnership, code sharing routes, lounges, services, airports and even allowing passengers to book/transfer each other’s points. Emirates is practically a member of Oneworld without being one.

Emirates is a competitor to Qatar for contested Asia to Europe routes.

Qatar Emirates Qantas
Qantas and Emirates have made it pretty clear how important their alliance is.

The second issue is that Qatar has been rapidly expanding into Australia, creating directly routes to Doha where previously you would have to transfer via Qantas. Most international flights in Australia depart from Sydney or Melbourne (The twin largest cities) and Qatar passengers would need to fly Qantas if they were coming from regional cities first. However, Qatar has decided to create routes directly to those regional cities.

Qantas vs Qatar
Qatar destinations. Doha, the hub is selected on the map. Source: Qatar Website

They have routes to:

  • Perth Australia, the location of the famous Perth to London route (Now with a competitor via Doha)
  • Sydney and Melbourne
  • Adelaide, the South Australian capital. This airport is very cheap for international carriers to fly to, although it has a much smaller population.
  • Canberra, the capital of Australia and one airport with very few direct international flights.
  • Brisbane is also on the cards, as Qatar vowed in March to do whatever it took to secure a route there.

“My colleague Akbar Al Baker (CEO of Qatar Airways) has said this before and it hasn’t happened yet, but we will do whatever it takes to get a route into Brisbane.” – Fathi Atti, Qatar advisor in March.

Qantas accidentally leaked a memo with this conflict in mind, lamenting that they did not agree with Qatar’s expansion into the region. In the same interview as above, Joyce had these remarks about the memo and Qatar’s expansion into Qantas turf.

“Our view has been very simple, we’re after fair competition. If aviation was governed by the World Trade Organisation, there would be some dumping cases against people for going in well below cost to force people off routes and markets. We think those rules should apply to aviation markets,” – Alan Joyce

It is, of course, a bit ironic that Qantas eventually plans to skip the middle east entirely, with direct flights to Europe as part of project sunrise.

The long-distance aspirations of Qantas – Source: Qantas

If Qatar finally pulls the trigger, like China Southern did earlier this week, the CEO of Qantas had these final remarks.

“We’ve plenty of other alternative mechanisms, which is the way our network is designed. People have a lot of choice on the Qantas-coded network to get to the same European points that they had been using Qatar,” – Alan Joyce