Just a few short years ago, American Airlines and Qatar Airways were two of the biggest business rivals in the aviation industry. At one point, American Airlines was even pumping money into a Washington-based lobby group aimed at discrediting its Doha-based competitor but times couldn’t have changed more.
American and Qatar are now responsible for the largest codeshare agreement in the airline industry – a business practice between two or more airlines who sell seats on each others flights and place their own flight number on a service operated by another airline.
The advantage of a codeshare is that airlines are able to offer more flights to more destinations than would be possible on their own and they get to keep a cut of the revenue generated from tickets on flights operated by the other airline.
The codeshare agreement between American Airlines and Qatar Airwyas has been such a success that around 18% of passengers arriving in the Americas on Qatar flights from Doha are now connecting on American Airlines services.
In the other direction, since American Airlines launched a direct flight from New York JFK to Doha last June, more than 175,000 passengers have connected from American Airlines onto services operated by Qatar Airways.
Some of the most popular destinations for passengers connecting from AA flights onto Qatar Airways services include Lahore, Dhaka, Kathmandu, and Islamabad – destinations that American Airlines doesn’t currently serve and, let’s be real, has no interest or inclination in operating its own flights to.
That works out to around 530 passengers per day connecting from American Airlines flights onto Qatar Airways. Presumably, of course, not all of those are traveling on AA’s own direct service but it goes some way to demonstrate the business case for American complementing Qatar Airways with its own flight to Doha.
Such a scenario would have been unthinkable a few years ago. In 2017, American Airlines axed a codeshare agreement with Qatar Airways after the Qatari flag carrier made an unsolicited offer to buy 10% of the Fort Worth-based airline. A spectacular bust up that led to Qatar Airways threatening to quit the Oneworld airline alliance.
Through its third party lobbyists, American Airlines accused Qatar of destabilizing the U.S. aviation industry before the two sides suddenly announced in early 2020 that they had made up and were pursuing a strategic relationship again.
The simple truth is that American Airlines realized it was leaving money on the table and losing passengers that needed ‘super connectors’ like Qatar Airways. Of course, the pandemic delayed things but now AA and Qatar Airways seem pretty happy with how things are going.
In fact, Qatar Airways is even running a special promotion to celebrate its partnership anniversary with AA. The airline is offering special fares starting at $945 from New York JFK, including to popular destinations including Tanzania, the Maldives, Jordan, and India.
Flights must be booked before June 20 for flights departing after July 1, 2023, although be aware that there is a blackout period between December 1, 2023 and January 31, 2024.
For passengers looking to book flights on QSuite enabled aircraft (which really is a phenomenal product), you should also be aware that Qatar Airways reserves the right to swap out aircraft at the last minute with non-QSuite fitted jets.
Time will tell whether American Airlines retains its own direct service to Doha but Qatar Airways is keen to point out that there is most certainly plenty of demand and the codeshare agreement in working out in AAs favor.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.