Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways, has hinted at plans to buy a 25% stake in a U.S. “startup” airline. If I’m a betting man, I’d say that is JetBlue.
Speaking to reporters at an air show in Kuwait earlier this week, Al Baker (“His Excellency”) told reporters that it was in talks to buy a 25% stake in a U.S. airlines.
Importantly, Al Baker stressed that the U.S. airline approached Qatar Airways and not the other way around. Al Baker stopped short of saying Qatar was interested, though I believe that was implicit in his discussion.
After years of profitability, Qatar Airways has been hit hard with blow after the blow. The Middle East electronics ban last year deeply hurt business travel and diplomatic rows with Saudi Arabia and the United Abab Emirates have cut off valuable routes. Qatar Airways will report a huge loss this year.
So investing in the lucrative U.S. airline markets seems like a smart move at this time.
Qatar Airways flies to New York twice daily and Boston daily. Imagine if Qatar Airways customers could easily book domestic connections on partner that wants to do business together, not just an alliance parter. Sure, both Qatar and American are part of oneworld and have to work together to some degree, but American has been clear: it does not want a closer relationship with Qatar Airways.
Also Imagine JetBlue commencing transatlantic service to London and other popular cities in Europe with onward connectivity via Doha to the rest of the world.
It could easily be a win-win situation for both.
Don’t forget government contracts as well. Currently JetBlue partners with Emirates. By slapping JetBlue codeshares on Emirates flights, Emirates has been able to win business from the U.S. government. Perhaps Qatar Airways is eyeing similar opportunities.
JetBlue missed out on obtaining Virgin America and seems hungry for growth. A closer relationship with Qatar Airways may provide exactly that. We will see if/when/how this plays out…
Photo: Akbar Al Baker / FLICKR (CC 2.0)