London, Oct. 2 (Reuters): Qatar Airways is expected to become the first Gulf carrier to join the oneworld Alliance of airlines that is spearheaded by British Airways and American Airlines.
Sources close to the alliance said Qatar Airways’ deal with the alliance could be announced at a press conference in New York next Monday.
The announcement is expected to be made in the presence of Willie Walsh, chairman of International Airlines Group (IAG), which owns British Airways, American Airlines’ boss Tom Horton and oneworld CEO Bruce Ashby.
Alliances were set up in the 1990s to help airlines take advantage of each other’s marketing and traffic in the face of tightly-controlled bilateral traffic rights. So far, the Gulf carriers have refrained from joining as they build big networks.
The other two alliances are Star, which includes Lufthansa, and SkyTeam, whose members include Air France-KLM and US carrier Delta.
Our bureau adds: Qatar Airways’ entry into the Alliance makes it an attractive partner for Kingfisher as it scouts for an investor in the troubled airline.
Qatar Airways has been interested in investing in Indian carriers. Reports suggest that it is one of several airlines that Kingfisher officials have had talks with in recent weeks.
In February this year, Kingfisher was named as a member-elect in the alliance. Its entry had been put on hold to “give it time to strengthen its financial position”.
At that time, oneworld CEO Bruce Ashby had said: “These are turbulent times for the airline industry in India and many other parts of the world. We have been working closely with Kingfisher Airlines over the past months and it has become increasingly clear recently that the airline needs more time to resolve the financial issues it is confronting before it can be welcomed into oneworld.”
Since then, Kingfisher has been forced to scale back operations before ordering a partial lockout after worker unrest over unpaid salaries.