The European Commission has approved the International Airlines Group’s (IAG) acquisition of Aer Lingus.
The Commission gave the go-ahead to British Airways parent IAG’s takeover on Tuesday, subject to certain conditions.
The EC requires IAG release five daily slot pairs at London-Gatwick to facilitate the entry of competing airlines on routes from London to Dublin and Belfast.
And it demanded Aer Lingus continue to carry connecting passengers to the long-haul flights of competing airlines out of Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, Amsterdam, Shannon and Dublin.
The Commission said its investigation had found the takeover, as initially notified, would have given IAG high market shares on the Dublin–London, Belfast–London and Dublin–Chicago routes, and the merged airline “would have faced insufficient competitive constraints from the remaining players which could ultimately lead to higher prices”.
The EC also said it analysed whether there was a risk IAG would prevent passengers on Aer Lingus’ short-haul flights from connecting with long-haul services operated by competing airlines.
However, IAG gave commitments to release five daily slot pairs at Gatwick.
It also made a commitment to enter agreements with competing airlines which operate long-haul flights out of Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, Amsterdam, Shannon and Dublin [to] continue to provide these airlines with connecting passengers.
The EC said: “Passengers will continue to have a choice to use other airlines than IAG when connecting at these airports, for instance on Heathrow–New York, Gatwick–Las Vegas, Manchester–Orlando, Amsterdam–Singapore, Shannon–Chicago, and Dublin–Chicago.
“These commitments adequately address all competition concerns identified by the Commission.”
Commissioner in charge of competition policy Margrethe Vestager said: “By obtaining significant concessions from the airlines, the Commission has ensured air passengers will continue to have a choice of airlines at competitive prices after IAG’s takeover of Aer Lingus.
“The five million passengers travelling each year from Dublin and Belfast to London will be able to choose among several strong carriers.
“We are also protecting passengers travelling on connecting flights between Ireland and the rest of the world.”
IAG won the approval of the Ryanair board for its Aer Lingus takeover last week – Ryanair owns a near 30% stake in Aer Lingus and the deal will now go to a Ryanair annual general meeting.
The Irish government has already agreed to sell its 25% stake in Aer Lingus to IAG.