Virgin Challenges Regulator Over BMI Takeover
Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic airline has said it will appeal against a decision by the European competition watchdog giving the go ahead for the takeover of BMI by the parent company of British Airways.
Virgin Atlantic said the European Commission had given its approval for the contentious deal in "lightning speed" after taking just 35 days to come to a decision.
In a statement the company said: "The airline believes the deal will cause serious competitive harm at Heathrow, placing British Airways in a position of total market dominance at the world's busiest airport and completely eroding consumer choice.
"We will challenge every aspect of this process, which if allowed to stand will undoubtedly damage the British airline industry for years to come."
The £172.5m takeover was approved by the regulator last month on the condition that BA owner International Airlines Group (IAG) give up 14 pairs of daily take-off and landing slots at Heathrow as a contribution to boost competition in the sector.
Sir Richard, whose Virgin Group owns 51% of Virgin Atlantic, will now bid for the slots that have been put up for sale.
The company statement added: "The European Commission has seemingly ignored all of the strong cases made by politicians, business groups and airlines to enable one big company to become even more bloated."
IAG - formed in 2011 from the merger of BA and Spanish airline Iberia - agreed to purchase loss-making BMI from its German owner Lufthansa in November.
Virgin Atlantic, whose own bid was rejected, immediately complained to the European Commission.
Last week BA said that the takeover would result in the loss of up to 1,200 jobs at BMI's head office at Castle Donington in Derbyshire and at regional airports.
But BA said that without the acquisition, all 2,700 jobs at BMI could have been lost.
The deal is due to take effect on April 20.