Qatar Airways Airbus A340-600

Qatar Airways, one of the largest carriers in the world, announced on Monday that it was joining the Oneworld Alliance. Other major members of the alliance include American Airlines, British Airways and Cathay Pacific.

Qatar Airways customers will be able to be part of the Oneworld’s Privilege Club frequent flyer program, making it possible to redeem rewards on any of Oneworld’s other carriers. Members will also be able to use the group’s 550 airport lounges.

Likewise, the 125 million Oneworld frequent flyer cardholders will be able to enjoy Qatar Airways perks including mile rewards and access to Qatar Airway’s lounges.

Named as the airline of the year for the past two years by Skytrax, Qatar Airways has become the first of the three major Middle Eastern carriers — with Dubai-based Emirates and Abu-Dhabi based Etihad — to sign up to a global airline alliance.

The integration of the Doha-based carrier to the global alliance is expected to take between 12 and 18 months and will start as the carrier moves to its new home, the New Doha International Airport, scheduled to open in 2013.

Designed to receive a total of 50 million passengers a year, the new airport will become one of the main major hubs in the region.

In 15 years of operations Qatar Airways has built up a network of 120 destinations in 70 countries and operates one of the youngest fleets including 111 Boeing and Airbus aircraft, with an average age of four years old.

This year as part of its expansion, Qatar Airways is adding a number of routes to its network: Yangoon, Myanmar (October 3), Maputo, Mozambique (October 31), Belgrade (November 20) and Warsaw (December 5).

Currently, Oneworld covers 856 destinations in 159 countries served by a combined fleet of 2,600 aircraft, operating over 9,300 flights a day.

Skyteam, one of its main competitors, has 18 members including Air France, Delta and Korean Air, offering 15,000 flights a day to 993 destinations in 186 countries.