US And Canada Report

Qatar Airways now biggest shareholder in British Air parent

Qatar Airways now biggest shareholder in British Air parent

The influence of the so-called big three “Gulf carriers” continues to expand. The latest comes from Qatar Airways, which on Friday announced that it had bought nearly 10% of the company that owns both British Airways and Spanish carrier Iberia. That also makes Qatar Airways the largest single shareholder in that company, the International Airlines Group (IAG), according to The Telegraph of London. The purchases deepens Qatar Airways’ business ties to Europe at a time when its two main Gulf rivals – Etihad and Emirates – are trying to do the same. The move also gives Qatar Airways a stake in what is perhaps its most important partner, British Airways.635548312875471334-AP-France-Airbus

Backed by British Airways, Qatar Airways became the first of the three big Gulf carriers to join one of the world’s thee big frequent-flier alliances. The carrier entered the oneworld alliance in 2013, becoming a member in the group whose founding members include British Airways and American.

Qatar Airways’ stake in IAG also could help it in the ultra-competitive London marketplace, where British Airways operates its biggest hub at London Heathrow. The capacity controlled airport is coveted by airlines because of its desirability for business travelers. However, access can only be gained by buying or trading “slots” from carriers already at the airport. Recently, partners of airline alliances have increasingly coordinated their access to Heathrow — something that at least one analyst says may have been a factor in Qatar Airways’ purchase. A stylish dome features prominently above the middle

For its part, Qatar Airways says the deal is a way for the airline to enhance its operations and it expand its network. “IAG represents an excellent opportunity to further develop our Westwards strategy,” Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker says in a statement. “Having joined the oneworld alliance it makes sense for us to work more closely together in the near term and we look forward to forging a long-term relationship.” Al Baker says Qatar Airways currently has no plans to increase its stake in IAG, though he didn’t rule it out in the future. IAG welcomed the move, with CEO Willie Walsh saying he was happy to Qatar Airways as a “long term supportive shareholder.”