The EC approved the acquisition of UK regional carrier Flybe by the Connect Airways consortium earlier this month on condition it surrender slots at Amsterdam Schiphol and Paris Charles de Gaulle airports.

The Connect Airways consortium of Virgin Atlantic, the UK’s Stobart Group which owns Southend Airport outside London, and US private equity group Cyrus acquired Flybe in March in a deal worth £80 million but which saw existing shareholders receive only a nominal amount.

Flybe was at risk of ceasing trading if the deal had not gone through.

The commission noted the change of ownership would lead to a near monopoly for Virgin Atlantic and partner airline Air France-KLM on two routes – Birmingham-Amsterdam and Birmingham-Paris.

That is because Air France-KLM is poised to take a 31% stake in Virgin Atlantic, a deal approved by the EC in February.

The EC said the combination of the two deals involving Virgin Atlantic would make it difficult for competing airlines to operate from Birmingham to Schiphol and Charles de Gaulle, given congestion at the airports.

Connect Airways will therefore surrender five pairs of slots at Schiphol and three at Charles de Gaulle to competing airlines.

US regulatory clearance of the new transatlantic joint-venture between Air France-KLM, Virgin Atlantic and Delta Air Lines is expected this month, confirming Air France-KLM’s acquisition of a 31% stake in the UK carrier from Virgin Group, which will retain a 20% holding.

The remaining 49% of Virgin Atlantic is held by Delta Air Lines.

Flybe will be rebranded as Virgin Atlantic once an overhaul is complete, but it will be operated separately from the UK long-haul carrier by holding company Connect Airways which is 30% owned by Virgin, 30% by Stobart and 40% by Cyrus.

Mark Anderson of Virgin Atlantic took over as chief executive of Connect Airways this month.