Let’s play a game of imagination.
Imagine a situation in which one airline decides to invest in several others. So the airline does. A little bit here, a little bit there. Now imagine that these other airlines are part of a common alliance and cooperate together on many levels. The strategic investment allows a seat at the table that helps to further influence levels of cooperation.
Finally, imagine that after a number of years, the airline has, in-effect, cornered the market, building up a coalition that can overcome any veto attempt. Is that just rampant imagination, or is that the future of oneworld with Qatar Airways pulling the strings?
I think this is at least an interesting issue to consider. Qatar Airways has investments in the following carriers:
- 49% – Air Italy
- 9.99% – Cathay Pacific
- 20% – IAG (Aer Lingus + British Airways + Iberia)
- 10% – LATAM
With the exception of Air Italy, which partners with a handful of oneworld airlines, the carriers are all strategic members of oneworld. In this investment, Qatar has Asia, Europe, and Latin America covered.
Qatar’s latest investment is in China Southern, a free-agent that recently left SkyTeam and has been heavily courted by American Airlines. There is a strong chance that China Southern will join oneworld as well. Qatar Airways bought a 5% stake in the airline, giving it an important seat at the table…right next to American Airlines.
Recall that Qatar Airways also attempted to invest in American Airlines, a move that received ice cold reception and was subsequently abandoned. Some assumed the courting of American was merely a publicity stunt, but I saw it as more of a warning: be careful who you attack.
While an investment in American Airlines may not have ended the petty bullying from AA, it would further have highlighted a “do as I say, not as I do” attitude from American Airlines, which not only partners with Qatar Airways via oneworld but also partners with Abu-Dhabi based Etihad Airways.
Qatar’s action changes the old cliche to, “If you can’t join them, beat them.” Shunned by American Airlines, Qatar Airways may well be building a network of allies to counter any future attempts by American to oppose Qatar Airways route expansion. Who knows, Qatar may even be plotting to eventually start adding Fifth Freedom flights to the United States from key points in Europe. With IAG muzzled, AA would be the only muted opposition.
My future scenario is merely imagination right now. But it is certainly plausible. Whenever you read news, ask yourself why. Here, why is Qatar Airways investing in so many airlines? It’s about more than a direct monetary ROI. It’s about control years down the line. Now you know my theory.