American Airlines, Qatar Airways renew cooperation, put ‘past issues’ behind

American Airlines spent years accusing Qatar Airways of engaging in “illegal” practices that threatened the US airline industry, causing the two oneworld members to very publicly butt heads. But the carriers have now agreed to stand down to create a “strategic partnership” that will include extensive codesharing.

Neither the Obama administration nor the Trump administration were willing to tear up the bilateral Open Skies agreement between the US and Qatar, leaving American with little choice but to cooperate with Qatar Airways.

The recent demise of Air Italy—the entity 49%-owned by Qatar Airways—likely gave succor to American executives that Qatar couldn’t use fifth freedom rights to trample the transatlantic market.

“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 CEO Doug Parker said. “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 CEO Akbar Al Baker said: “The deal will bring together two of the world’s largest airline networks, increasing choices for millions of passengers and providing seamless connectivity to a significant number of new destinations, in line with Qatar Airways’ successful growth strategy.”

“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. This agreement will harness our complementary strengths and resources and enable more customers to experience Qatar Airways’ award-winning product quality.”

Pending government approval, American will place its code on select Qatar Airways nonstop and connecting services to and from the US and Qatar Airways' hub in Doha. Meanwhile Qatar Airways will place its code on select flights beyond American’s hubs in Dallas/Fort Worth, Chicago O’Hare, New York JFK, Philadelphia, Miami and Los Angeles, as well as on American’s international flights to and from Europe, the Caribbean, Central America and South America.

American said the two airlines are exploring the addition of service from the United States to Doha and discussing new ways to further their partnership through expanded commercial cooperation that will enable long-haul growth for both airlines.

“As we look to build out a truly global network and create a strong presence in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, the renewed codeshare with Qatar Airways will be one of the cornerstones of making that a reality,” American senior VP of network strategy Vasu Raja said.

Photo credit: Qatar Airways

Aaron Karp

Aaron Karp is a Contributing Editor to the Aviation Week Network.