iberia_britishLucy Tobin
British Airways today moved a step closer to its £5 billion merger with Spain’s Iberia after winning approval from the European Union’s competition regulator.

The British flag carrier was also given approval to develop its oneworld alliance on transatlantic routes with American Airlines,
and capitalise on the Open Skies agreement that aims to free aviation routes between the US and the European Union.

The three airlines agreed to cede some take-off and landing slots at Heathrow — so rivals will be able to launch routes between London and New York, Boston, Dallas and Miami — in order to share more of their routes and cut costs.

The EU antitrust group said: “The commission’s investigation confirmed that the merged entity will also continue to be subject to competition from a number of competitors on the markets for air cargo transport and ground-handling services.”

At BA’s annual meeting yesterday, chief executive Willie Walsh said he expected further airlines to join the International Airlines Group, the name of the combined BA-Iberia business.

BA is waiting for the pensions regulator’s approval for a recovery plan for its £3.7 billion pension deficit, the last barrier to the merger.