International Airlines Group plans to use some of the 42 extra Heathrow slots gained from its takeover of bmi to increase British Airways’ exposure to Asia, after the deal was approved by the European Commission.
IAG agreed to give up 14 pairs of take-off and landing slots after buying bmi Photo: Alamy
The EC gave IAG, which owns BA and Iberia, the green light on Friday after the aviation giant agreed to give up four more pairs of take-off and landing slots than the 10 originally put on the negotiating table.
Among the 14 pairs of slots relinquished are seven that have to be used to operate routes between Heathrow and Scotland.
The extra slots will be passed to a trustee appointed by the EC before being auctioned off to rival carriers.
Virgin Atlantic, which challenged the £172.5m takeover, is expected to compete for the Heathrow slots when they are eventually put on the market. Willie Walsh, chief executive of IAG, said talks will now commence with unions over job losses at bmi, which currently has a workforce of 2,600
He said the deal would secure “the maximum number of jobs possible in the company” but he warned: “I make no secret of the fact that there will inevitably be some redundancies”.
Lufthansa had signalled it would shut loss-making bmi had the acquisition not received EC approval.
IAG will operate bmi’s summer schedule but Mr Walsh said he then intends to use the slots to expand BA’s long-haul network, including flights to parts of Asia where the flagship carrier does not currently serve.
Friday night’s decision from the EC avoided the possibility of a lengthy “phase two” investigation, although the takeover could still be delayed if Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin decides to pursue an appeal. A spokesman for Virgin said: “We are very concerned that a deal of such significance has been waved through with very little regard for the flying public.
“The last-minute remedies offered this week by British Airways were not shared with the industry and they have not been subject to a detailed assessment…..
Full story from The Telegraph here….
By Nathalie Thomas
8:34PM BST 30 Mar 2012