American Airlines and Qatar Airways heal rift, renew code-share plans


Visitors watch as Airbus A350 wide-body aircraft, produced by Airbus Group NV in Qatar Airways Ltd. livery, prepares to land.

Paul Thomas | Bloomberg | Getty Images

American Airlines and Qatar Airways are renewing their code-share partnership, ending a more than two-year strained period in which Qatar’s outspoken CEO insulted the U.S. carrier’s employees while aggressively pushing to expand into North America.

The agreement is a clear sign the animosity and very public split between the two companies has healed.

“The issues that led to the suspension of our partnership two years ago have been addressed,” American’s Chairman and CEO Doug Parker said in a statement. “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.”

Those opportunities could eventually include American adding service to the Qatari capital Doha, which would create more connections to destinations in the Middle East. A few years ago, such a move would have been considered unthinkable as American and Qatar engaged in their spat.

Parker and other U.S. airlines executives have warned since 2015 of the threat Middle East airlines posed to the U.S. airline industry because they receive government subsidies, allowing them to operate some routes at a loss. Time and again, U.S. airline executives argued Middle Eastern carriers were expanding service to the U.S. by operating flights between cities in Europe to destinations in the U.S.

In 2017, American and Qatar, partners in the Oneworld airline alliance, started to openly criticize each other. During an event in Europe, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker said, “There is no need to travel on those crap American carriers.” A few weeks later, Qatar offered to buy up to 10% of American.

Almost immediately after Al Baker made the offer, Parker shot it down, saying, “We’re a bit bewildered as to why Qatar is interested in investing in American Airlines, given the very public and aggressive position we’ve taken about their business model.” American then canceled its code-share agreement with Qatar.

Now, Al Baker and Parker have decided it’s better to work together.

For American, the agreement allows customers to buy a ticket through American and then connect on Qatar flights to destinations in the Middle East, Africa and the Indian subcontinent. Those regions are growing in importance. Qatar can use the code-share agreement to offer customers connections to more cities in the U.S., the largest airline market in the world.

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