American Airlines and Qatar Airways plan to begin
codesharing within the next month, a sign of thawing of the past few years’
frosty relationship between the two carriers.
Pending government approvals, American will put its code on
Qatar Airways’ nonstop and connecting flights between Doha and the United
States. That would give American customers access to several markets beyond
Doha, including some in high demand among corporate travelers, such as
Hyderabad and Chennai in India as well as Nairobi and Johannesburg, American
Airlines senior vice president of network strategy Vasu Raja said.
“Our corporate customers today are asking about every market
in India, especially Southern India, which can be so hard to get to.”
Qatar Airways, meanwhile, would put its code on select
flights from American’s hubs in Dallas/Fort Worth, Chicago, Philadelphia,
Miami, New York and Los Angeles. Those would include international flights to
Europe, the Caribbean, Central America and South America.
The carriers this week will submit paperwork to the U.S.
Department of Transportation this week and hope to be codesharing by the end of
March, Raja said.
Both Oneworld alliance members, American and Qatar previously
had a codeshare agreement together, but American ended that relationship in
2017 amid the long-running dispute between U.S. and Gulf carriers over
allegations of Open Skies violations. While the carriers ultimately came to an
agreement over that issue, it was reignited when Air Italy, in which Qatar had
a 49 percent stake, began expanding its service to the U.S. However, Air Italy
entered liquidation earlier this month.
“The issues that led to the suspension of our partnership
two years ago have been addressed, and we believe resuming our codeshare
agreement will allow us to provide service to markets that our customers, team
members and shareholders value, including new growth opportunities for American
Airlines,” American chairman and CEO Doug Parker said in a statement. “We look
forward to the renewed cooperation between our airlines and hope to build an
even stronger relationship with Qatar Airways over time.”
Qatar Airways Group chief executive Akbar Al Baker issued a
statement with a similarly conciliatory tone, calling the codesharing “an
agreement between two successful and ambitious airlines with a shared common
purpose to enhance the customer experience. We have moved on from past issues
and look forward to working closely with American Airlines to build a
world-leading partnership for all our customers.”
Eventually, American hopes to add its own service between
the U.S. and Doha, which Raja said would be “for 2021 or beyond.”
Codesharing with Qatar is the latest step in American’s new focus
on building its network to Africa, the Middle East and India, Raja said. That
focus includes its announcement earlier this month to begin codesharing with
Alaska Airlines in tandem with launching daily service between Seattle and
Bangalore later this year. American also established and is building a
codesharing relationship with Royal Air Maroc as well as adding service between
Philadelphia and Casablanca this summer.
“All across [these regions] are fast-growing markets, but
right now, the travel options to them are not great,” Raja said. “This will
enable us to provide so much more connectivity.”
Source: Business Travel News