The president of Emirates Airline has poured cold water over Qatar Airways’ dream of a bilateral alliance, saying such a partnership would be too formidable.
Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar’s national carrier, recently told Arabian Business he was “always open” to the possibility of an alliance with Dubai-based Emirates Airline and that the integration of the two fast-growing Gulf carriers would strength both airlines and benefit the region as a whole.
“We are always open [to an alliance with Emirates Airline],” Al Baker said. “The closeness between Emirates and Qatar Airways will really make a very strong airline.”
Emirates president Tim Clark said the airlines were “great friends” but he was not entertaining the idea of a tie-up.
"I know that Mr Al Baker is quite keen to see an alignment ... actually there’s a certain amount of that going on anyway. Whether or not you’ll see the airlines coming together is something else,” he said.
“It's not something that we’re actively contemplating. I know that there is a kinship between the two carriers and I like to think we have it with [Abu Dhabi-based] Etihad as well, a friendly competition that goes on and that's healthy for the whole region.
“If you start stitching up the three together, you might find there’s a formidable block of capacity. And I like to think that we can charter our own courses, do our own thing [and] remain friendly competitors, as we do.
“We go to many routes in parallel. I think we do it effectively and hopefully we’re making money for our shareholders.
“That's as far as we want to go at the moment.”
Clark said such a partnership would be unlikely to get through competition authorities.
“If [an alliance between Qatar and Emirates airlines] was to happen you have to pass massive competition authorities all over the world. It’s something that is, perhaps in the view of some, a good idea, but the practicalities of executing that kind of arrangement are very difficult,” he said.
“Goodness knows what our European friends would think about that. A few back flips, I would think in certain cities of the world.”
Chairman and chief executive of Emirates Group, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, also was cold towards the idea of partnering with Qatar Airways.
“I think in the Gulf, regional airlines are complementing each other and if there is something good we [can] do together, we should do it. We’ll leave it at that,” he said.
Emirates’ alliance with Australian flagship carrier Qantas, which launched on March 31, is one of the strongest in the industry, with both airlines already reporting huge boosts to traffic.
The number of Emirates passengers booking tickets to regional Australia using the Qantas codeshare arrangement has increased by five times, while Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said his airline had seen European bookings increase six-fold under the Emirates codeshare arrangement compared to its previous alliance with British Airways.
Qatar Airways is due to join the Oneworld alliance, of which Qantas also is a member, in September.