The European Commission has approved the takeover of flybe. (BE, Exeter) by Connect Airways, a consortium of Virgin Atlantic, Stobart Group, and Cyrus Capital, conditional upon the release of slots at Amsterdam Schiphol and Paris CDG airports.

The European regulator said that, in general, the takeover will not lead to competition distortion in regard to passenger air transport to/from Amsterdam Schiphol airport, cargo air transport services, ground-handling services or airport infrastructure services. However, it did reaffirm its preliminary finding that the transaction would lead to quasi-monopolies on services between Birmingham and the two continental gateways.

"This quasi-monopoly situation would result from Air France-KLM acquiring indirect control over flybe., via its joint control over Virgin Atlantic ... Entry of competitors into these routes would be difficult, considering that both Amsterdam Schiphol and Paris Charles de Gaulle airports are very congested airports," the Commission said.

To mitigate this effect, Connect Airways offered to release five daily slot pairs at Amsterdam Schiphol airport and three daily slot pairs at Paris Charles de Gaulle available to other airlines wanting to fly from these hubs to Birmingham Int'l.

According to the ch-aviation schedules module, flybe. and Air France currently fly 20x weekly each between Birmingham and Paris CDG. The route to Amsterdam is served 31x weekly by flybe. and 33x weekly by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.

Subject to Connect Airways releasing the slots, the Commission said that the transaction would no longer raise competition concerns.

The transaction was concluded on February 21. The Commission initially granted a derogation to the transaction, allowing Connect Airways to finance flybe. thus preventing an impending collapse of the regional carrier. At the same time, the consortium was not allowed to exercise control over flybe. pending EU approval.

flybe.'s outgoing CEO Christine Ourmières-Widener told ch-aviation in early June that due to the EU process, no significant operational changes at flybe. would be implemented before the Summer 2020 season. Ourmières-Widener will be replaced by Mark Anderson, CEO of Connect Airways.

Connect Airways said in a statement that "work is also underway to develop an exciting new brand" for flybe.