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Qatar Airways joins oneworld alliance

by Devesh Agarwal

Flag carrier Qatar Airways becomes part of oneworld® alliance at midnight Doha time tonight, becoming the first carrier from the burgeoning Gulf region to join join any airline alliance. Qatar also joins fellow middle-east carrier Royal Jordanian which is a member of oneworld.

QR633 which departs from Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka for Doha at 03.15 local (00.15 Doha time) and QR1166 from Doha for Riyadh, leaving five minutes later at 00.20 Doha time, will the first flights of Qatar Airways as a oneworld member.

The airline completed its induction procedures within just one year, compared to the typical 18 to 24 months taken to join an alliance.

Qatar Airways, which serves more than 130 destinations in 70 countries will bring 20 of its destinations and five countries – Ethiopia, Iran, Rwanda, Serbia and Tanzania – to the oneworld map. The airline will bring more one-stop transit options for passengers flying between Asia and Europe or between Asia and Africa hitherto less available or unavailable within the oneworld network.

oneworld livery

image courtesy oneworld®

At a ceremony to mark its entry into oneworld, held at Hamad International Airport, which is to be Qatar Airway’s new base in the future, the airline “unveiled” the first aircraft in its fleet to be decorated in a special oneworld livery, Boeing 777-300ER registration A7-BAA.

Its distinctive design features “oneworld” in blue letters some 6 ft (2 metre) high along a white fuselage and the airline’s standard tailfin. The airline will decorate three other aircraft in its fleet in this special livery – another 777 and two Airbus A320s.

Starting tonight, oneworld logos will be applied by the side passenger entrance doors on Qatar Airway’s entire fleet of 130 aircraft as part of a massive rebranding programme that will also see the alliance logo added virtually wherever the Qatar Airways name is displayed – at airport check-in desks and signage, on its website, tickets, boarding passes and all items of stationery.

Frequent flier programme

All cardholders in the airline’s Privilege Club frequent flyer programme are being sent new membership cards, bearing the oneworld logo and “gemstone” tier indicator. Platinum cardholders will have Emerald status in the oneworld programme, Gold will be equivalent to oneworld Sapphire and Silver will be oneworld Ruby.

The airline is offering a ‘Double miles’ offer to frequent flyer members to celebrate its induction into the alliance. Privilege Club members will receive double Qmiles award miles when flying on Qatar Airways and its oneworld partners between 15 November and 31 January (except between 20 December and 5 January), and (till 24 January for Cathay Pacific). Likewise, oneworld member frequent fliers will receive double mileage when flying Qatar. Please visit the respective airlines’ websites for specific information.

Premium passenger terminal only for revenue passengers

Doha Premium Passenger Terminal. Photo © Devesh Agarwal.

From midnight tonight, Privilege Club Platinum and Gold members will be able to access more than 550 airport lounges worldwide offered by oneworld member airlines when they fly with one of the alliance’s carriers.

Qatar Airways’ First and Business Class passengers will also be able to use oneworld partner airline lounges. As oneworld Emeralds, Privilege Club Platinum cardholders will be able to use First Class lounges, where available, and receive an additional baggage allowance and access fast tracks through departure security at select airports.

However, the reciprocation at Doha is not quite equitable. The airline in a release stated that oneworld elite tier passengers flying in economy class would be provided basic lounge facilities in the main terminal at Doha. The premium terminal will be reserved for revenue first and business class passengers only.

Facilities at Qatar Airways’ Premium Passenger Terminal at its Doha hub will continue to be accessible only by customers holding First Class or Business Class tickets on Qatar Airways.

What does Qatar’s induction mean for India

Qatar Airways as of now is the second largest international carrier to India, with 100+ weekly flights. Earlier this year, Malaysia Airlines joined oneworld, and SriLankan will join the alliance early next year, thus ring-fencing the sub-continent.

In one fell swoop, oneworld now will become the dominant alliance operating in India, and will be a credible alternative to the Star Alliance. Qatar offers competitive connections to most of Europe, and existing members British Airways and Finnair will definitely feel the pinch. Similarly, connections to Africa, and South America, will make joining the alliance interesting for the frequent flier. As of now, the two best frequent flier programmes within the oneworld alliance appears to be American Airline’s AAdvantage, and British Airway’s Executive Club.

Indian carriers are still dilly-dallying about joining an alliance. Kingfisher was to join oneworld, before its financial implosion. For some unknown reason Air India wants to join only Star, even if the alliance will not have it. With Etihad now in control of Jet, there is no way, it will join oneworld thanks to opposition by Qatar and Royal Jordanian. Turkish would like to keep Etihad out of Star, leaving SkyTeam, where Etihad already has a strategic alliance with Air France-KLM.

oneworld’s biggest membership expansion drive

The addition of Qatar Airways represents the latest landmark in oneworld’s biggest membership expansion yet. Other elements elsewhere in the world include:

  • The addition of Malaysia Airlines, strengthening oneworld’s position in South East Asia.
  • The induction on 1 October 2013 of LAN Colombia, the second largest airline in South America’s second biggest economy.
  • The transition to oneworld on 31 March 2014 by TAM, the leading airline in Latin America’s leading economy, Brazil, with its Paraguayan affiliate to be added soon afterwards. This will complete the consolidation in oneworld of all the passenger carriers in LATAM Airlines Group, the region’s leading airline company, building on oneworld’s position as the leading global airline alliance serving Latin America.
  • The introduction early next year of SriLankan Airlines, as the first airline from the Indian subcontinent to join any global alliance, which, with Qatar Airways, will make oneworld the leading alliance in the region.
  • The proposed switch by US Airways from Star to oneworld as part of its planned merger with American Airlines, subject to necessary approvals.

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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