Speaking in an interview with the German DPA news agency on December 1, Qatar Airways (QR, Doha Hamad Int'l) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Akbar Al Baker has strengthened his views on a potential partnership with Lufthansa (LH, Frankfurt Int'l).

"If there is an opportunity to invest in Lufthansa, we would like to do that," he said adding that codeshare flights or a marketing cooperation could be other areas where Qatar Airways and Lufthansa could work together.

Al Baker has a history of being very open towards his Star Alliance competitor. In an interview with aeroTELEGRAPH last year he commented: "We don’t want to harm Lufthansa." The outspoken CEO added that while he wanted to grow his airline, it was not to be at the expense of other carriers. "If there is competition, there is also room for cooperation," he said when referring to the German airline.

Being in different global alliances could be an important consideration in any deal, but Al Baker seemed confident it would not be a barrier. "I have mentioned several times that we will leave Oneworld."

The news from Doha was however firmly rebuffed by a Lufthansa spokesperson, who talked to Reuters on the potential deal. "We have not privatised Lufthansa in Germany so that it will now be nationalised in Qatar," he said.

In the past, Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr has challenged Qatar Airways and other Gulf airlines on the state subsidies he alleges they receive.

Qatar Airways has a track record for investing in other airlines. The Gulf-based carrier owns a stake of around 20% in IAG International Airlines Group, parent company of British Airways (BA, London Heathrow), Iberia (IB, Madrid Barajas) and Aer Lingus (EI, Dublin Int'l). It also maintains a 49% stake in Air Italy (IG, Milan Malpensa), 10.03% in LATAM Airlines (LA, Santiago de Chile Int'l), 9.99% in Cathay Pacific (CX, Hong Kong Int'l) and 5% in China Southern Airlines (CZ, Guangzhou). It is recalled that efforts to gain a foothold in American Airlines (AA, Dallas/Fort Worth) via hostile buy-in in 2017 were rebuffed by the US carrier.