If You Can’t Beat ’Em, Disjoin From Them: American Airlines Ends Codeshare Relationships With Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways

American Airlines is ending its codeshare relationships with Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways effective as of Thursday, March 1, 2018, according to multiple media sources; and the main reason is because of the ongoing Open Skies debate in which representatives of airlines based in the United States accuse the three airlines of the Persian Gulf — Qatar Airways, Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways — of receiving greater than $42 billion in supposed illegal subsidies from their respective governments in order to grow their airlines.

If You Can’t Beat ’Em, Disjoin From Them: American Airlines Ends Codeshare Relationships With Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways

The campaign known as the Open Skies debate to rein in the three main carriers based in the Persian Gulf region by the three largest airlines based in the United States has been going on for greater than two years; and it was renewed and continued this past February.

Doug Parker — who is the chief executive officer of American Airlines — was reportedly concerned that if the carriers based in the Persian Gulf are permitted to fly routes such as Dallas-Fort Worth to Paris, “it makes our ability to fly that route incredibly difficult,” and shorter flights that feed passengers to Dallas-to-Paris airplanes could also “begin to unwind,” according to the aforementioned article. Allowing carriers based in the Persian Gulf to “operate more such flights would pose a threat to U.S. airlines.”

Casualties had already occurred. Delta Air Lines was forced to cancel operating flights between Atlanta and Dubai effective as of Thursday, February 11, 2016. According to this article written by Kate Modolo of Delta News Hub for Delta Air Lines, “The announcement comes amid overcapacity on U.S. routes to the Middle East operated by government-owned and heavily subsidized airlines, and less than a month after Delta reduced service between the world’s busiest airport and the Middle East’s largest hub.”

Spokespeople for Qatar Airways, Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways have repeatedly denied receiving government subsidies; and they have formed alliances with carriers such as JetBlue Airways, which was awarded the government contract for 2016 on the Washington-Dubai route and the government contract for the New York-Milan route — but those routes are actually serviced by Emirates Airline, as neither Dubai nor Milan are destinations served by JetBlue Airways, which reportedly opposes renegotiating the airline treaties.

The codeshare relationship of American Airlines with Qatar Airways has existed since Tuesday, February 26, 2013; and the codeshare relationship of American Airlines with Etihad Airways was expanded to include transatlantic flights and all other eligible flights of both airlines on Wednesday, April 29, 2015 — but that all comes to an end effective as of Thursday, March 1, 2018 in order to end one key aspect of those alliances.

“The smart money says at this point that this doesn’t go any further at this point; that AA reluctantly did this because there was too much pressure/noise/etc to ‘do nothing’”, surmised FlyerTalk member JonNYC. “So, barring major developments, I expect everything else to remain status-quo.”

What This Means For You

Codesharing is the practice of two or more airlines applying a flight number to the same flight, thereby sharing the flight. This business arrangement is officially known as a codeshare agreement between airlines, which helps to save money for all airlines involved in the arrangement because they are able to pool their resources instead of operate independently with their own equipment and employees. For example, one airline can market the flights of a codeshare partner as if it were its own flight.

Ending a codeshare relationship can seem to mean fewer flights, as you will no longer see flights operated by Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways marketed or sold by American Airlines. To book reservations on those flights, you will need to shop for them elsewhere.

The end of the codeshare relationships between the aforementioned airlines does not end the ability to earn redeemable frequent flier loyalty program miles between the airlines. For example, you can still earn American Airlines AAdvantage miles on flights operated by both Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways as always; but not as many as on flights designated as codeshares…

…but you can no longer earn elite qualifying miles, elite qualifying segments or elite qualifying dollars towards elite level status for the following year, as lamented by FlyerTalk member DrinkRaiderade: “This does now completely remove the ability to earn EQD’s, EQM’s, and EQS’s on EY metal. Previously they were only earned on the AA codeshares. Still will get RDM’s, but at a lower rate than booked as an AA codeshares. As a oneworld Traveller that goes to AUH every 6-8 weeks, this is going to sting. (Already stinging in that QR can’t fly to AUH anymore) To get to AUH, I’m likely going to have to fly RJ or BA (Or CX into DXB).”

Summary

As I originally wrote in this article on Thursday, March 19, 2015, whatever “subsidies” Qatar Airways, Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways might be receiving will not last forever; as no entity has an unlimited amount of funds…

…and as I predicted, that is starting to become a reality, as all three airlines have cut back on their products and services in order to save money. As one example, a notice was sent out from Etihad Airways to its customers that a paid airport transfer service replaced its complimentary chauffeur service at all destinations other than the United Arab Emirates effective as of Monday, July 3, 2017. “Guests travelling in The Residence on our A380 will continue to receive complimentary Chauffeur Services at all A380 destinations”, posted FlyerTalk member UAuhoh. “All First and Business Class tickets (with the exception of Business Saver tickets), booked before 3 July 2017, can still book and confirm the Etihad Chauffeur service worldwide. For any ticket issued on 3 July or after (including re-issued tickets), the new policy will apply.”

I actually agree that if the airlines of the United States — which are generally enjoying record profits of billions of dollars per quarter — and Europe want to face off with those three airlines, then they need to improve the products and services they offer to match theirs.

I have flown multiple times as a passenger seated in the economy class cabin during transatlantic flights on both Etihad Airways and Delta Air Lines. In terms of product and certain aspects of service, I would have to give the nod to Etihad Airways — but it does not exactly blow the product offered by Delta Air Lines “completely out of the water.” In terms of customer service both on and off of the airplane, Delta Air Lines is the clear winner, in my opinion.

What I am attempting to say is that each airline should compete based on its strengths — whether they be service, price, product, frequent flier loyalty program or other factors. Stop involving governments and wasting the time and money of taxpayers to further agendas intended to artificially affect the commercial aviation market and just get down to the business of serving your passengers safely, comfortably and efficiently…

…and this goes for airlines on all sides of the Open Skies debate.

As for me, I am unaffected by this announcement — but that does not mean that I do not sympathize with anyone who is adversely affected by it.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

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