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Europe gives green light to IAG's bid for Aer Lingus, but there was something unexpected

Slots at Gatwick must be given up for the deal to go through..

Updated 8.30am

2012: Bray Air Display - Aer Arann Regional ATR 72 (Aer Lingus Colours) Source: infomatique via Flickr/Creative Commons

THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION has approved IAG’s proposed takeover of Aer Lingus.

The approval is subject to conditions, including the release of five daily slot pairs at Gatwick airport.

IAG is the parent company of British Airways, Iberia and Vueling ,and the Commission had concerns that the merged entity would have faced insufficient competition on several routes.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland this morning, Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe said the approval is a “substantial landmark” that will enable continued growth at the airline, stressing the benefit of more long haul flights.

Despite the approval from the Commission yesterday, the deal still needs to be voted on at the Aer Lingus EGM to approve the conditions attached.

These include:

  • The release of five daily slot pairs at London-Gatwick airport to facilitate the entry of competing airlines on routes from London to both Dublin and Belfast
  • Aer Lingus continuing to carry connecting passengers to use the long-haul flights of competing airlines out of London-Heathrow, London-Gatwick, Manchester, Amsterdam, Shannon and Dublin.

The Minister said these Gatwick slots are not as crucial as those at Heathrow, on which the deal hinged on.

“Heathrow is a key European hub airport that’s crucial for connectivity in the United Kingdom and beyond,” he explained, “and it has been the long-standing focus of government policy to protect these slots because they’re so scarce.”

Bus Strike Over Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

He said the release of the Gatwick slots will result in more competition at the airport, and is good news for ‘passengers, prices, and choices’.

The government will receive as much as €370 million if the sale is successful.

European Commissioner in charge of competition policy Margrethe Vestager said: “By obtaining significant concessions from the airlines the Commission has ensured that 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. And we are also protecting passengers travelling on connecting flights between Ireland and the rest of the world.

The Commission’s approval of the takeover was the final hurdle ahead of Aer Lingus’s EGM.

Originally published 10.25pm. Additional reporting by Nicky Ryan.

Read: Ryanair has voted to sell its Aer Lingus shares>

Read: Do you support the sale of Aer Lingus?>

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