The owner of British Airways PLC gained European Union approval Friday to buy U.K. airline British Midland Airways Ltd., known as bmi, from German owner Deutsche Lufthansa AG for $276 million.
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA, which owns British Airways, had to give up 14 daily slots at London's Heathrow airport to win approval from the European Commission, the administrative arm of the European Union, Reuters said.
But even after surrendering 14 Heathrow slots, the deal still gives British Airways 42 slots at Heathrow that it didn't have before the deal, which was announced last year.
In addition, British Airways had to agree to connect passengers to rivals' flights.
After examining the operation, the Commission concluded that the transaction would not significantly impede effective competition in the European Economic Area or any substantial part of it, the European Commission said in a statement.
Once the deal is completed, the airlines group will hold 53 percent of the slots at Heathrow, the world's busiest airport for international flights, up from its current share of about 42 percent.
Just such a prospect drove Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd., which has only 3 percent of Heathrow's slot, as well as other parties, to oppose the airlines group's purchase of British Midland Airways.
We find it incredible that something of this importance, that will affect the aviation landscape for decades to come, could be pushed through without being scrutinized robustly through the very process set out by the competition authorities, a spokesman for Virgin Atlantic told Dow Jones Newswires.
We will now take time to understand every aspect of this decision and review all available options, it added.