DOHA: Qatar Airways, which becomes an oneworld airline alliance member today, plans to further expand services into Malaysia by working with Malaysia Airlines (MAS), according to Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker.
“Yes, we will increase flights (from our 14 weekly flights now) to Malaysia. It is an important market but it will be done together with MAS,’’ Akbar told StarBiz yesterday on the sidelines of Qatar Airway’s oneworld entry ceremony at the soon-to-be-opened US$15.5bil Hamad International Airport here.
Nearly 100 journalists from all over the world were present at the event.
Even MAS is keen to work with Qatar to increase linkages to the Middle East given the rapidly growing market place.
MAS chief executive officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said separately even though both carriers now had a code share, he was looking to further deepen the working relationship.
“The traffic growth between KL and the Middle East is growing as can be seen by the increase in number of frequencies added by the Middle Eastern carriers. There is definitely growth and we want to tap into the growth opportunity,” said Ahmad Jauhari.
Apart from Qatar Airways, other Midde Eastern carriers that fly into KL include Emirates, Eithad Airways and Gulf Air.
MAS recently reopened its Dubai route after closing it for more than a year.
Qatar Airways is the 13th airline to join oneworld alliance, a move that will give its passengers access to more routes, destinations and lounges.
More importantly, its entry comes at a time when global airlines need alliances to stay competitive amid intense competition in the global air sector.
“We are a young airline and wanted to choose the alliance that is best for us and also to add value to the alliance members. We wanted to be part of a high class alliance, so when the invite came, we were quick to join,’’ Akbar said.
Qatar Airways is the fourth airline to join oneworld after AirBerlin, MAS and Lan Airlines this year. The next is Sri Lankan Airlines to give its members access to the Indian sub-continent market.
MAS joined oneworld this year and is seeing benefits in terms of growth of passenger numbers.
The other oneworld member carriers are British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, American Airlines, Finnair, Royal Jordanian, S7 Airlines, Iberia and Japan Airlines.
oneworld is one of the three global air alliances, the other two are StarAlliance and Skyteam. In the region, Singapore Airlines and Thai International Airways are members of StarAlliances.
British Airways (BA) is Qatar Airways’ sponsor and though European carriers have for a long time seen the Middle Eastern carriers as their rivals and Qatar’s entry may hurt further Europeans carriers, that is not the view of oneworld alliance members.
BA chief executive Willie Walsh said: “I have been a fan of Akbar for what he has achieved since taking control of the airline. That is something to be admired. The Middle Eastern carriers are significant players and I would not be here if there are no positive development.’’
Akbar added that there could be concerns by European carriers but not the oneworld carriers because “they could see the value we could add.”
“But we know the European carriers are always screaming about the airlines from the Middle East, especially the three airlines from the Gulf (Qatar, Emirates and Eithad Airways), but I can assure you that each of those remaining alliances will be knocking on the Gulf carriers soon, but they have missed the best one.”
For oneworld members, they now have 981 destinations to fly to in 151 countries. In comparision, StarAlliance has 28 members and 195 destinations while SkyTeam has 19 members and covers 178 countries.