Let's lay it out real nice, in bullet points, why this matters:
· Qatar Airways is the first of the three big Gulf airlines (Qatar Airways, Etihad, Emirates) to join an alliance. As Al Baker put it, this is significant because "today is recognition that Gulf airlines have a come a long way and are being taken seriously."
· They'll add 15 new destinations and three new countries (Iran, Rwanda & Seychelles) to the Oneworld map, bringing the total served by Oneworld carriers to 856 destinations in 159 countries.
· As Oneworld thinks of itself as the "first choice alliance for the world's most frequent international travelers,*" Qatar's addition brings Doha into the spotlight as a business travel capital, along Oneworld's other focus cities of New York, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Chicago.* (*quoting IAG CEO Willie Walsh)
· Qatar Airways is a Skytrax-rated 5-star airline (by contrast, American is only 3-star) with one of the youngest fleets in the world, with aircraft averaging only five years old. They take delivery of a new plane every 15 days, and have just added the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to their fleet.
· Frequent flyer miles woooo! If you're racking up the miles on any Oneworld member airline** then you'll be able to continue racking them up while flying Qatar, also enabling you to trade them for Qatar flights, which means increased itinerary options for award tickets. Those with status in the loyalty programs of member airlines will also get access to Qatar's swanky lounges.
Is it wrong that we spent half the press conference daydreaming about using our British Airways Avios for some sweet Seychelles action? Nope, because now making that dream a reality is very nearly within reach.
One last thing. Why did Qatar Airways choose Oneworld for their big alliance decision? The answer comes clear from Al Baker himself who, when asked how he feels about Etihad's dancing with SkyTeam, said "we always go for a relationship with goldsmiths, not scrap dealers." Oooh burn!
**Current Oneworld member airlines are Air Berlin, American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Japan Airlines, LAN, Qantas, Royal Jordanian and S7. Other new members still completing integration are Malaysian Airlines and Sri Lankan Airlines.