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American Airlines and Qatar Airways: the most extensive codeshare partnership in the airline industry

Within this agreement, airlines engage in the practice of selling seats on their partner's flights, while utilizing their own flight numbers for the services operated by the partnering airline.

Qatar AirwaysPhoto by Saif Zaman

Only a few years ago, American Airlines and Qatar Airways stood as prominent rivals in the aviation industry. During that time, American Airlines went so far as to provide financial support to a lobby group in Washington with the intention of undermining its competitor based in Doha. However, circumstances have since undergone a remarkable transformation.

American and Qatar have forged a monumental codeshare agreement, establishing the most expansive partnership of its kind in the airline industry. This agreement involves the practice of airlines selling seats on each other’s flights and assigning their own flight numbers to services operated by the partnering airline.

Codeshares provide airlines with the advantage of expanding their flight offerings to a wider range of destinations beyond what they could achieve independently. Additionally, they receive a portion of the revenue generated from ticket sales on flights operated by their codeshare partner.

The codeshare partnership between American Airlines and Qatar Airways has proven to be immensely successful, with approximately 18% of passengers arriving in the Americas on Qatar flights from Doha now connecting to American Airlines services.

Conversely, since the introduction of American Airlines’ nonstop flight from New York JFK to Doha in June of last year, over 175,000 passengers have seamlessly connected from American Airlines to Qatar Airways-operated services.

Passengers connecting from American Airlines flights to Qatar Airways services have shown a strong preference for popular destinations such as Lahore, Dhaka, Kathmandu, and Islamabad. These destinations, which American Airlines does not currently serve and has no intention to operate flights to, have become significant points of interest for travelers utilizing the codeshare partnership.

On average, approximately 530 passengers per day connect from American Airlines flights to Qatar Airways. It is important to note that not all of these passengers are traveling on American Airlines direct service to Doha. Nevertheless, this figure serves as compelling evidence for the business rationale behind American Airlines’ decision to complement Qatar Airways with its own flight to Doha.

A few years ago, the idea of such a scenario would have been unimaginable. In 2017, American Airlines terminated a codeshare agreement with Qatar Airways following an unsolicited offer from the Qatari flag carrier to acquire a 10% stake in the Fort Worth-based airline. This contentious situation resulted in a dramatic fallout, with Qatar Airways even threatening to exit the Oneworld airline alliance.

Amidst this backdrop, American Airlines, through its third-party lobbyists, accused Qatar of destabilizing the U.S. aviation industry. However, to everyone’s surprise, in early 2020, the two parties announced a sudden reconciliation and a renewed pursuit of a strategic relationship.

Van Flyer
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