British Airways might be not thrilled with Qantas’ unprecedented decision to stray outside the oneworld family and join forces with Emirates, but airline alliance CEO Bruce Ashby sees no harm for oneworld in the partnership.
“There’s a business niche and a need that Qantas wants to fill” Ashby reasoned in an interview with Australian Business Traveller. “Emirates is an excellent partner, and Oneworld didn’t have somebody who could step into that gap.”
“So why should we get mad and prevent it? People keep coming to me saying ‘How can you allow this, isn’t this disruptive?’... well, actually, no, it’s not disruptive. It’s a little complicated but it’s not disruptive.”
“(The Qantas-Emirates alliance) doesn’t hurt us, and it helps Qantas which is one of our members, and that’s what we’re about.”
“If by joining an alliance we told you you couldn’t do the things that were good for your business, because in joining our alliance you had to give them up, that would be a little insane.”
“And so we don’t bind anybody’s hands” says Ashby. “That wouldn’t be good for us, our members or the travellers. We love our flexibility.”
“Yes, it does bring a few headaches on from time to time” Ashby admits, “but it’s worth the price.”
Nor will Ashby entertain pundits who predict the slow demise of globe-striding alliances.
“I hear people saying alliances are outdated and unnecessary, but I don’t see it in the numbers. If you look at the travel between the top 100 business cities, 86 percent of revenue is on alliances, so that tells me we’re not quite dead yet.”
However, Ashby allows that bespoke alliances built around strategic ‘best fit’ principles – such as the ‘virtual network’ of Virgin Australia with links to Air New Zealand, Delta, Etihad, Singapore Airlines and others – have a place in oneworld’s world.
“You can build together a patchwork alliance of airlines, although they tend to be rather narrow in scope. They have really good cooperation between point A and point C but they kind of don’t get to point B and they kind of miss D through Z altogether.”
“As long as they go where you want to go and offer the benefits you want, that’s fine. I can’t argue with that. It’s just they lose on that simplicity of a worldwide schedule with rewards and recognition.”
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About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.