Gulf airlines’ joining alliances to benefit aviation industry, consumers

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An Emirates airliner seen taxied next to an Air India jet on an Indian airport. Photo –

Fast-growing Gulf airlines have begun taking a more cooperative approach, seeking alliances rather than direct confrontation with big carriers in the rest of the world, a report said on Wednesday.

Many airline observers believe the shift appears to be in response to tough market conditions and a realisation that the Gulf airlines cannot sustain their breakneck expansion indefinitely. It is expected that many consumers will benefit from the Gulf airlines’ drive by receiving more integrated flight schedules and lower fares in some cases.

Qatar Airways last week became the first major Gulf airline to announce plans to join the oneworld alliance. Members of the alliance, which include American Airlines, British Airways and Cathay Pacific, cooperate in areas such as route networks, frequent flyer schemes and parts procurement.

The Qatari flag carrier’s rival, Etihad Airways, sealed a codeshare deal with Air France-KLM, under which they will share flights immediately after the oneworld alliance news broke out.

Emirates entered a codeshare deal with Australia’s Qantas earlier this year, the first for the Dubai-based giant, which had previously steered clear of alliances and relied on organic growth by expanding its fleet.

“This is great news for the consumers,” Tony Tyler, chief executive of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), said at an industry conference in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.

“Alliances help airlines offer very competitive fares on other airline networks. So consumers can go around world at competitive prices.”

Airline alliances were set up in the 1990s to help carriers benefit from each other’s marketing efforts and route networks in the face of national regulators’ tight control over traffic rights.

In addition to oneworld, the big alliances are Star, which includes Lufthansa, and SkyTeam, which includes Air France-KLM and U.S. carrier Delta.

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