October 31st marked the beginning of Middle East carrier Qatar Airways full membership in the oneworld alliance. The big Middle East carriers have largely shunned the major alliances, preferring to do things on their own. For oneworld, it’s a bit of a coup to grab Qatar and add them as an official alliance partner.
Qatar also makes American Airlines “Explorer Award” distance-based much more interesting. I’m planning a separate post on that, so more later.
There are still plenty of places it’s easier to get to on Star Alliance, especially Asia. But, if you look at the last 5 years-ish worth of expansion at oneworld, it’s pretty impressive:
2009: Russian airline S7 joins, adding roughly 50 destinations to oneworld’s reach.
Late 2009: Mexicana joins, rapidly expanding the reach in Mexico and Central America. Unfortunately, they declared bankruptcy a year later.
2010: Kingfisher, a large carrier out of India announces it’s going to join oneworld. 2 years later, right before they were scheduled to become a full member, they adopted Mexicana’s approach and suspended a bunch of operations, ultimately declaring bankruptcy.
2012: Things get back on track when Air Berlin becomes a full fledged member. This adds a bunch of connections from the US that help American Airlines customers get to Europe a different way. They also serve a solid number of European and African destinations.
2013: Malaysian Airlines becomes an official member.
And, now, Qatar. SriLankan Air is still pending membership. And, the combined Latin American juggernaut LATAM will be part of oneworld.
Sure, there are holes. But, it’s been a good few years for oneworld. And, with a lot of these carriers bumping up their game with new planes and better amenities, it’s a more comfortable journey to the corners of the world.