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Qatar Airways is to join the Oneworld alliance on Wednesday 30 October 2013, just over one year after announcing its original intention to join the alliance.
This means that from this date, members of fellow Oneworld alliance members frequent flyer programmes will be entitled to reciprocal frequent flyer benefits (such as mileage earning and airport lounge access) when flying on Qatar Airways.
Qatar is the first of the three major Middle Eastern airlines to join one of the major airline alliances. Emirates has eschewed membership of an alliance and Etihad has preferred to take equity stakes in other airlines such as Aer Lingus and Air Berlin.
Qatar also adds a significant number of destinations to the Oneworld map, specifically in the Middle East and South Asia.
Specifically, for London based travellers, Qatar provides access to a large number of destinations in the Middle East and Asia that are not currently served directly by BA. These destinations not served directly by BA include, amongst others, The Seychelles, Baghdad and Erbil in Iraq, Amritsar, Goa, Kolkata, and Kozhikode in India, Mashhad in Iran, Chongqing and Guangzhou in China, Hanoi in Vietnam, Bali and Jakarta in Indonesia, Manila in the Philippines, Karachi, Lahore, and Peshawar in Pakistan.
This is important for both BA and Oneworld as its presence in Asia is relatively limited compared to rival alliances and attempts to bring a domestic Indian carrier into the alliance have floundered with the now grounded Kingfisher Airlines abandoning its planned membership of the alliance.
Qatar, which flies five times a day to its hub in Doha from London Heathrow and daily from Manchester, will also benefit from the distribution networks and frequent flyer bases of its fellow alliance members. BA, only of only two Oneworld airlines to fly to Doha, also flies daily to Doha (but, for now at least, with a short stop in Bahrain en route).
I would not rule out further announcements regarding co-operation between Qatar Airways and other Oneworld alliance members in areas such as codesharing, specifically British Airways which sponsored Qatar’s membership of Oneworld.