What happens if Qatar leaves oneworld?
Reward flight availability is likely to drop if the airline pulls out.
Speculation is mounting that Qatar Airways might walk away from oneworld. Squabbles are not unusual in the world of airline alliances, which involve competitors agreeing to work together and thus are ripe for friction. But what's happening this time?
Qatar's CEO Akbar Al Baker has recently been involved in some public spats with Qantas and American Airlines, two of the founding members of the alliance. "I don't see any point in us continuing to stay a part of Oneworld when other partners see us as a threat," he reportedly said at an event in Spain last week. The airline's desire to launch services from Brisbane (it already flies to Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Perth and Adelaide) is the local sticking point.
The next meeting of oneworld's member airlines takes place in New York in December, so that's when we'll know if the threats will actually turn into withdrawal. Qatar became a oneworld member airline in 2012, becoming the first of the then-rapidly-expanding Middle Eastern international carriers to join an airline alliance. (Neither Etihad nor Emirates are in a multi-airline alliance, though Emirates does of course have an extensive partnership with Qantas.)
The most obvious impact for Australians if Qatar decides to quit will be a reduced number of options for reward flights. Its business class Qsuite is on many a frequent flyer bucket list, something that was very evident at the Frequent Traveler University event in Sydney I presented last weekend.
Because Qatar flies from so many cities, there's generally good availability for flights, especially in business class. For instance, on checking this morning for a rewards flight from Sydney to Doha (Qatar's main hub), I was offered a wide range of options. The direct Sydney–Doha flight wasn't one of them, but if I wanted to take this flight, I'd happily settle for one of the more adventurous routings. Indeed, out of Perth, there was even some first class availability.
For that reason alone, I hope Qatar doesn't quit oneworld. Scoring a pointy-end reward seat out of Australia requires patience and strategy, and the more options passengers have, the better.
Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears regularly on finder.com.au.
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Picture: Dmitry Birin