Virgin Atlantic Airways A340-600. By Rob Finlayson

Virgin Atlantic Airways (VS) will appeal the European Commission’s (EC) decision to allow British Airways’ (BA) parent International Airlines Group (IAG) to take over debt-racked British Midland International (bmi) (ATW Daily News, April 2).

In a weekend statement, VS said it “believes the deal will cause serious competitive damage at [London] Heathrow (LHR), placing British Airways in a position of total  market dominance at the world’s busiest airport and completely eroding consumer choice.”

VS president Richard Branson was quoted as saying the move would damage the UK’s airline industry “for years to come.” He added that the EC had seemingly ignored arguments made by politicians, business groups and airlines that had campaigned against BA being allowed to buy bmi and acquiring its valuable slots at LHR.

VS is bidding to operate all 12 of the remedy slots that the EC insisted BA should surrender as part of the price for acquiring bmi.

Branson argued it was essential that the 12 slots should not be distributed piecemeal to BA’s rivals but be disposed of en bloc, to help create a strong competitor at Heathrow. 

A VS spokeswoman said that although the EC had announced its decision allowing the BA acquisition, the appeal would not be lodged with the European Union’s General Court until the full legal decision had been published and scrutinised. The publication date is not yet known.

She added that VS has accepted that any successful appeal would not reverse the ECs decision; the best it could hope for would be more slots to be stripped from BA.