The oneworld alliance is exploring the possibilities of adding a Middle East network carrier to its rostrum, probably Qatar Airways, but possibly Etihad Airways. This would shake up the intricate world of airline partnerships as alliances have so far shunned the big three Middle East carriers. International Airlines Group has been speaking favourably for some time about Qatar Airways and its CEO Akbar Al Baker. Each of the alliances may be realising that it should swallow its pride and act before its competitors in accepting Qatar, Etihad or Emirates – especially since there may be too many hubs in the Middle East and accepting one may deal a blow to the others.
Emirates is big enough to sustain itself – and possibly too big to integrate into an alliance. Although Etihad only has around 90 aircraft on order compared to 190 ordered by Qatar, its far-reaching network of codeshares would have to be extensively revised in an alliance. This makes Qatar the most suitable of the airlines for an alliance.
Among the alliances, SkyTeam may accept one of the Middle East network carriers, but Star is highly unlikely to – Lufthansa appears to dislike them and fellow member Turkish Airlines is strategically and geographically similar to them.
[pictured: Qatar Airways Business Class]