Qatar Joining Oneworld Alliance Despite Denials, Sources Confirm

10/2 Update: Reuters is also now reporting that Qatar will join oneworld:

“Qatar Airways will become the first Gulf carrier to join the oneworld alliance of airlines with an agreement due to be announced early next week, according to sources close to the alliance.

The sources said Qatar Airways' membership of the alliance, which includes IAG's British Airways and American Airlines AMR.N, will be announced at a press conference in New York on Monday.”

Original post

The Financial Times (free registration required) reports that Qatar Airways is joining oneworld:

“Qatar Airways is set to be the first of the fast-expanding Gulf carriers to become a member of one of the global airline alliances, by agreeing to join oneworld.

The move is a coup for oneworld, whose members are led by American Airlines and British Airways, and underlines how the Gulf carriers may no longer be viewed with hostility by western airlines…

Qatar Airways, which has its hub in Doha, has been in discussions for several months about joining oneworld. An announcement could be made next Monday, although Qatar Airways and oneworld declined to comment.”

 

Declined to comment is putting it mildly—just on Sunday CEO Akbar al-Baker, in response to questions about Qatar joining oneworld, he insisted “No, we will not. It's all rumors.”

While it seems strange for the CEO to outright deny, I'm more inclined to believe the Financial Times. No source was quoted, presumably because no attribution could be given ahead of a formal announcement.

Assuming that Qatar does join oneworld, Qatar business class to the Maldives will be a bit more expensive with American AAdvantage miles than with United MileagePlus miles: 67,500 miles each way, total of 135,000 miles roundtrip. With United, it was 60,000 miles each way, and 120,000 miles roundtrip.

What will be significantly more expensive, however, are awards to other regions, because, as we wrote in Maximizing American AAdvantage Awards, American does NOT allow you travel via the Middle East/India to any other region. The only exceptions American permits for connecting in a different region to your destination are:

  • North America to India via Europe
  • North America to Africa via Europe
  • North America to Asia Region 2 via Asia Region 1
That means that if you wanted to fly Qatar to Australia, you'd need to redeem two separate awards, for a total of 112.5 miles each way in business class, 225 miles roundtrip. Needless to say, I don't recommend that award, whereas with United, U.S.-Doha-Melbourne in business was possible for 135,000 United miles.
 
Still, Qatar is a great option to have, and you could still construct some interesting itineraries by booking Qatar to Central Asia, say Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, then cheap flights to Moscow, St. Petersburg or Kiev to see European Russia or Ukraine. 
 
What's your prediction: Is Qatar joining oneworld or not?
 
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