British Midland International A319. By Rob Finlayson
The European Commission (EC) has given the go-ahead for British Airways (BA) owner International Airlines Group (IAG) to acquire British Midland International (bmi), saying any competition concerns were addressed by conditions that were proposed as part of the deal.
The decision, announced Friday, requires IAG to give up 14 daily slot pairs at London Heathrow and to commit to carry connecting passengers to feed long-haul flights of competing airlines out of Heathrow.
“In light of these commitments, the Commission concluded that the transaction would not raise competition concerns,” Brussels said in a statement.
In its proposal to regulators, IAG offered to release 12 daily slot pairs at Heathrow, which could be used on the specific routes of concern, including the UK domestic routes, as well as on other European routes. In addition, it proposed leasing two Heathrow daily slot pairs to Transaero for use on flights to Moscow. IAG also said it would form special agreements with competing airlines that operate long-haul flights out of Heathrow to provide those airlines with connecting passengers.
"The commitments package includes an appropriate number of very sought-after slots at London Heathrow as well as far-reaching feeder arrangements as regards connecting passengers. We are therefore satisfied that the competitive dynamics will be maintained so as to ensure choice and quality of air services for passengers," Commission VP-Competition Joaquín Almunia said.
IAG CEO Willie Walsh told ATW earlier this week that if approval was granted, the company would move “as fast as possible” to integrate bmi into BA and that bmi’s fleet would be repainted in BA colors (ATW Daily News, March 26).
IAG reached a deal worth €207 million ($271 million) in December 2011 to buy loss-making UK carrier bmi from Lufthansa Group.
Virgin Atlantic Airways, which also tried to buy bmi, had asked antitrust officials to block the deal, arguing it would harm competition (ATW Daily News, March 14).