Qatar Airways’ CEO Akbar Al Baker says the airline will add more U.S. destinations to its network as a result of becoming a member-elect of the oneworld alliance.
“Yes, of course we are going to expand our network in the U.S.,” as a consequence of joining oneworld, said Akbar Al Baker, chief executive officer of Qatar Airways (whose IATA flight code is ‘QR’), on October 8.
Speaking at a press conference in New York where oneworld and Qatar Airways announced that the airline had been invited to join the alliance, Al Baker noted that his airline is launching service between Doha International Airport and Chicago O’Hare International Airport in the first quarter of 2013 “to complement the hub of American Airlines”, QR’s future oneworld partner.
“And we have plans to expand to other [U.S.] destinations, in close consultation with our oneworld partner,” Al Baker added. Al Baker did not refute the idea – expressed in a journalist’s question – that Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and Miami International Airport could be two likely additional Qatar Airways destinations.
Doha-based Qatar Airways already serves New York JFK, Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport in the United States, as well as Montréal’s Pierre Trudeau International Airport in Canada.
Since American Airlines also counts Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) as one of its five “cornerstone” markets and QR’s biggest rival Emirates already serves the airport, it is also possible QR could target LAX as a future U.S. destination too.
Taking into account only Qatar Airways’ existing network (which comprises 119 destinations in 70 countries), the Doha carrier adds 15 new destinations and three more countries to the overall oneworld-alliance network, which will increase to 856 destinations in 159 countries upon QR’s formal induction.
Before then, Malaysia Airlines and SriLankan Airlines – previously invited to join – are scheduled to be inducted as full oneworld members. Earlier this year Airberlin joined oneworld and Iberia Express, Iberia’s new low-cost arm, was accepted as an affiliate member. When Qatar Airways joins, the oneworld network will be carrying 357 million passengers and generating at least $118 billion in revenues annually.
Qatar Airways is the second-largest full-service carrier in the world (after Emirates) not to affiliate itself until now with a global airline alliance. It also has one of the youngest fleets in the world and is adding new aircraft at the rate of one every 15 days at present, Al Baker said.
Next year the carrier’s new home, the showpiece New Doha International Airport, will open and oneworld intends to make the strategically located new Persian Gulf airport – which has a potential annual handling capacity of 50 million passengers – a major alliance hub.
Sponsored for membership by International Airlines Group, which owns oneworld members British Airways and Iberia, Qatar Airways – ranked in each of the past two annual, independent Skytrax surveys of 17 million airline passengers worldwide as the highest-ranking airline globally for service quality – will formally join oneworld within the next 12 to 18 months.
While carriers elsewhere in the Middle East have already joined or agreed to join alliances, including Royal Jordanian (an existing member of oneworld), Qatar Airways has become the first of the three major carriers based in the Persian Gulf – the others being Emirates and Etihad Airways – to accept membership of one of the three major global airline alliances.