Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker has said he is “always open” to the possibility of an alliance with Dubai-based Emirates Airline.
He told Arabian Business that the integration of the two fast-growing Gulf carriers would strength both airlines and would benefit the region as a whole.
“We are always open [to an alliance with Emirates Airline],” Al Baker said while on a visit to Dubai. “I think now the closeness between Emirates and Qatar Airways will really make a very strong airline.”
Despite the Doha-based airline announcing it is set to be fully integrated into the Oneworld alliance from September, Al Baker pointed to Emirates’ recent alliance with Australian rival Qantas as a clear example the Dubai airline was open to integration.
“You never know: Did you ever expect only one year ago that Emirates and Qantas would get together? Things in aviation can move fast. Integration of Emirates and Qatar Airways will benefit this region and will make the two airlines even stronger than they are today.”
Last year, Emirates’ president Tim Clark directly addressed Al Baker’s dream for a merger with the two airlines and said it was unlikely to happen as it would have “seismic repercussions in the aeropolitical framework.”
“You put the two together and you would face the most formidable international airline group that has ever been formed. That’s why it will never happen,” he was quoted as saying by Aviation Week.
However, at the launch of the Emirates-Qantas alliance he seemed to be softening on the issue.
“We’ll act on any opportunity where we see the partnership adding value. We can look at any partnership where the airlines' chemistry matches similar to the deal signed with Qantas. Anything is possible,” Clark was quoted as saying by Emirates 24/7.
Al Baker said he was interested in an alliance with Emirates because the Dubai carrier “is a very strongly established airline and have the network that would absolutely compliment the network of Qatar Airways.”
"Given Emirates tie-up with Qantas, and Qatar Airways induction into the oneworld alliance, of which Qantas is a key member, you could argue that there are more stars aligning for a potential Emirates-Qatar Airways partnership than not,” Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at StrategicAero Research, told Arabian Business.
“While this is all speculation, that Qatar Airways is talking about it and Emirates is not denying it means there is likely more substance than rumour. The issue is agreeing a timescale to get this moving - and by when a merger could be completed by.
"There is certainly no rush - both Emirates and Qatar Airways are the world's fastest growing full service airlines. They know that whatever move they make, rivals will be shuddering with fear," he added.
Subscribe to Arabian Business' newsletter to receive the latest breaking news and business stories in Dubai,the UAE and the GCC straight to your inbox.