DOHA — In a ceremony hosted at Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar Airways was officially welcomed into the oneworld alliance on Tuesday. The lavish ceremony complete with drummers and the full red carpet, was attended by CEOs and top level executives of all alliance airlines. It marks the first of major Gulf region carriers to join a major alliance. Emirates and Etihad are currently independent of any global alliance.
Also present was the first aircraft to be repainted in the oneworld livery. The Boeing 777 aircraft was also the first to land at the Hamad International Airport, which after facing years of delays is expected to open to the public soon.
Qatar Airways, much like Emirates, has rapidly expanded during its short lifespan. Qatar Airways began operations in January of 1994 with a single leased Boeing 767-200ER, and less than 20 years later is poised to have one of the most diverse fleets in the industry. Currently, the bulk of Qatar’s longhaul fleet is comprised of the Boeing 777-300ER and Airbus A330, but the airline has orders for new aircraft including the 52 of the Boeing 787, 80 Airbus A350 and 13 A380s.
VIDEO EXTRA: From the ceremony in Doha:
At the press conference, held in the still under construction Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker was proud to join oneworld. “If you remember, for the last several years, I have said that alliances are the way airlines have to go,” said Al Baker. “We will show the oneworld partners will never fail them.”
When asked about upcoming aircraft deliveries, Al Baker was confident that Airbus will deliver their ordered A350s and A380s on time. Their first A350 is due for delivery in the second half of 2014, while their first A380, one of the first with the modified wing design, will be delivered in April of 2014. “I think they will surely deliver it during this period of time,” said said Al Baker. Al Baker also hinted that Qatar Airways will be placing an order at the Dubai Air Show, but stopped short of anything specific.
The oneworld alliance has seen quite a resurgence as of late, with Qatar’s official introduction being just the most recent development. Once (or, if) the American Airline US Airways merger is completed, the combined airline will be a member of oneworld, with US Airways dropping their Star Alliance membership. LATAM Airlines Group, the parent company of the now combined LAN and TAM airlines, opted to join oneworld, also leaving Star Alliance. SriLankan Airlines will also join oneworld in 2014.
Benefits of oneworld membership officially begin on the 30th, when passengers will immediately be able to earn and redeem miles on Qatar Airways. The addition of Qatar Airways to the oneworld family will open up several new countries to the alliance, including Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Serbia, Iran, and Tanzania. In total, 21 new cities will be added to one world, bringing the grand total to 950 destination.
Qatar is becoming a premium global carrier, much like Emirates Airline of Dubai. Now officially a member of an alliance, along with the opening of the new Hamad International Airport, Qatar is in a position to grow and expand globally even faster than in previous years. In return, oneworld now becomes the leading alliance in the Middle East, offering one-stop connections to many new city pairs as a result of the addition of Qatar. While Emirates Airline, a strong competitor, has signed many interline and codeshare agreements, such as with JetBlue in the United States, Qatar joining oneworld opens up many more advantages. Al Baker, however, remarked “all of the alliances will be knocking on the doors of the Gulf carriers, but they have missed the best one.”