The possibility of an IAG bid for a minority stake in bankrupt American Airlines has been confirmed in European and US reports by its CEO, and former British Airways CEO, Willie Walsh.
IAG is the parent company of British Airways and Spanish flag carrier Iberia.
While the reports are a level higher than your typical stock market hypothetical, in that Walsh has anointed it through his commentary as an officially sanctioned and no doubt deliberately endorsed hypothetical, such a bid has yet to emerge.
But it would add some interesting static into the discussions between Emirates and Qantas about the ‘simple code share’ that the UAE carrier has given a six month period in which to become reality.
What the parent company of British Airways does in relation to American Airlines affects Qantas on three fronts, in that each of these carriers have a common and mutually relevant membership of the Oneworld alliance, and Qantas has an individual joint services agreement or joint business venture with BA and AA respectively.
It is considered by every analyst yet to make headlines on the topic that an Emirates-Qantas codeshare would be either be harmful but not fatal to the British Airways interest in its agreement with Qantas, or so toxic that Qantas would have to trade whatever benefits it gets from that arrangement for the necessarily superior benefits of a deal with Emirates.
However it is also argued that a continuation of the American Airlines arrangements are essential for Qantas to fend off the potential strengths of the Virgin Australia commercial relationship with Delta, the largest American airline, across and beyond the Pacific.
The potential for tension in the American Airlines situation is obvious, and not just limited to what IAG might or might not do. The front runner for a merger with or takeover of American Airlines is US Airways, which doesn’t belong to, nor aspire to being in, the Oneworld alliance, and if it calls the shots in the future, it might also impact on the benefits Qantas currently gets from its association with American Airlines.
This is not about taking a position for or against a deal between Qantas and Emirates, but a recognition of the appearance on the horizon of some new and potentially complicating factors.