The European Union’s antitrust disciplinarians will extend by 20 working days their investigation of IAG International Airlines Group’s EUR500 million euro (USD590 million) bid to buy Air Europa (UX, Palma de Mallorca), the European Commission has said in a disclosure.

The commission, the EU’s competition regulator, had previously set its deadline for a decision on the acquisition of Spain’s third-biggest airline by passenger numbers, after Vueling Airlines and Iberia - both already part of IAG - as November 5. The new deadline is December 3.

It launched its “in-depth investigation into the proposed acquisition” after IAG could not lodge the documents needed for a cursory assessment by a deadline of June 22. It did so on concerns the deal may minimise competition on local and international routes from Spain.

IAG may have to make concessions, such as relinquishing certain routes, if it is to obtain EU approval for the acquisition. According to Reuters, the commission has extended its deadlines in a number of merger cases since the start of the pandemic, to allow companies more time to assemble the data from partners and competitors necessary to evaluate deals.

“IAG, which flies with Iberia and Vueling among others, and Air Europa are leading airlines in Spain. They are also key providers of connectivity between Spain, the rest of Europe, and Latin America,” commission vice president Margrethe Vestager said in a statement at the end of June when the earlier deadline was set.

“We will carefully assess whether the proposed transaction would negatively affect competition on domestic, short-haul, and long-haul routes to and from Spain, possibly leading to higher prices and reduced quality for travellers,” she continued. “It is important to ensure that the recovery of the sector takes place in a competitive environment preserving sufficient choice.”