Qatar Airways and American Airlines have today signed a strategic partnership deal and a codeshare agreement to enhance travel choices for their passengers. The airlines have not always seen eye to eye, but now it seems they are prepared to put their differences aside and work together for the benefit of their customers.
Details of the partnership
Qatar Airways and American Airlines have simultaneously announced the new partnership agreement, signed and sealed today. The new codeshare and strategic partnership is designed, the airlines say, to increase cooperation, boost connectivity and generate many more travel options for the millions of customers they fly.
If the deal is approved, American will place its code on some Qatar flights between the US and Doha, allowing passengers to connect onwards to destinations in the Middle East, East Africa and Asia that it doesn’t serve right now. Qatar, similarly, will place its code on flights going beyond AA’s hubs at Dallas-Fort Worth, Chicago O’Hare, Philadelphia, Miami, New York-JFK and Los Angeles. It will also codeshare on American’s flights to and from Europe, the Caribbean and Central and South America.
Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker commented on the partnership, saying,
“We are very pleased to secure this strategic partnership with American Airlines – an agreement between two successful and ambitious airlines with a shared common purpose to enhance the customer experience. The deal will bring together two of the world’s largest airline networks, increasing choices for millions of passengers and providing seamless connectivity to a significant number of new destinations, in line with Qatar Airways’ successful growth strategy.”
While Qatar couched this partnership as something new and exciting, American Airlines’ press release was somewhat more subdued. The US airline only mentioned renewing the codeshare that already existed, although it did say it would begin exploring additional services from the US to Doha as a result.
Burying the hatchet
American Airlines and Qatar ended their codeshare partnership in June 2017, ending a five-year partnership agreement. The fundamental issue came down to rows over state aid paid to Qatar Airways. At one point, it even looked as if Qatar would quit the oneworld Alliance over the row.
While the argument appeared to subside last year, thanks to an agreement between Qatar and the USA, it was reignited over Qatar’s involvement with Air Italy.
The big US airlines claimed that Qatar was using Air Italy to fuel US expansion, despite the fact Qatar only owned a 49% stake in the carrier. Now, with Air Italy shutting up shop, it appears Al Baker and Parker are ready to bury the hatchet.
Al Baker referred to the airlines’ differences in his comments, saying,
“We have moved on from past issues and look forward to working closely with American Airlines to build a world-leading partnership for all our customers. This agreement will harness our complementary strengths and resources and enable more customers to experience Qatar Airways’ award-winning product quality.”
American’s CEO Doug Parker also noted that the rift had been healed, commented that,
“The issues that led to the suspension of our partnership two years ago have been addressed, and we believe resuming our codeshare agreement will allow us to provide service to markets that our customers, team members and shareholders value.”
Rebuilding the partnership
Although Air Italy’s bankruptcy is still fresh in our minds, it’s unlikely that this played anything more than a passing part in the decision to reignite the codeshare. In fact, evidence that the partnership was slowly being repaired was in evidence as long ago as fall last year. Simple Flying journalist Jay Singh attended the oneworld Day in Dallas last October, and noted some positive comments from American Airlines regarding Qatar.
Joe Mohan, head of alliances at AA at the time, was clear that there was not really a ‘conflict’ between the two carriers. He noted that there was a strong possibility of AA working with Qatar in the future, as it would provide access to parts of the world not covered by American’s network. This suggests that foundations for the codeshare revival were being laid even back then.
The partnership is still pending government approvals, which can take some time to process. However, taking into account the fact that it worked for all parties involved last time, it’s unlikely there’ll be any curveballs to deal with.
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