The European Commission Appraisal of Airline Mergers

airline mergersAirliners intending to implement mergers witheconomic effects in the EU aviation transportmarkets have to seek the previous authorizationof the European Commission under the EuropeanMerger Control Regulation (EMCR). Since 1989the Commission blocked two airliners mergers (Ryanair/Aer Lingus, Case M.4439 and Olympic/Aegean Airlines, Case M.5830) and conditionally cleared many more by agreeing with the parties on remedies to fix the expected competition problems. The commonest remedy is the divestiture of landing and taking off airport slots, although the effectiveness of these remedies was questioned because in some cases no competitors used the freed slots. The purpose of this article is to discuss the Commission policy on slot remedies. In particular, it focuses on the questions whether slot remedies are effective tools to resolve the competition problems arising out of airline mergers and which elements should be included in slot remedy packages in order to enhance their effectiveness. These are questions of practical relevance given the cautious approach of the Commission in clearing mergers on the basis of efficiency defence. Thus, offering a set of suitable remedies to restore competition may be the only way for the merging parties to obtain the go-ahead from the Commission for a problematic merger.
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