The Belgian Competition Authority (BCA) has announced it has given its consent to Brussels Airlines (SN, Brussels National) to acquire the assets of rival carrier Thomas Cook Airlines Belgium (HQ, Brussels National).

In March this year, Brussels Airlines unveiled an enhanced partnership agreement with UK-based global travel firm Thomas Cook Group wherein the Lufthansa Group carrier would absorb Thomas Cook Airlines Belgium (TCAB) to become the leading carrier for Thomas Cook Belgium.

Under the terms of the deal, Brussels Airlines agreed to assume all of TCAB's 160 pilots and cabin crew, all its flight slots, and two of its five A320-200s. TCAB’s remaining three aircraft would be redeployed across Thomas Cook Group's other carriers - Thomas Cook Airlines UK, Thomas Cook Airlines Scandinavia, and Condor. Subject to regulatory approvals, Thomas Cook Belgium was to have ceased using TCAB flights from November 2017.

As such, in a statement issued on Tuesday, September 12, the BCA said its assessment had focussed on the impact on scheduled passenger carriers as well as the market for the wholesale supply of airline seats to tour operators.

"The College has decided that the concentration will not cause a significant restriction of competition in any of the concerned markets," the BCA said. "The Competition College of the BCA, therefore, authorises the acquisition of assets of Thomas Cook Airlines Belgium by Brussels Airlines."

It is recalled that the remainder of TCAB's assets - its AOC and its overall shareholding - have been acquired by Dutch holding firm SHS Aviation B.V. The move will give the Dutch firm's nascent VLM Airlines (VLM, Antwerp) unit access to TCAB's Belgian Air Operator's Certificate (AOC). In addition, SHS aviation will assume responsibility for the forty ground-handling crew who would have been made redundant under the Brussels Airlines tie-up. This part of TCAB's evisceration is expected to close by late October.