Korean Air has secured UK competition approval for its proposed merger with fellow Korean operator Asiana, based on its supporting Virgin Atlantic’s access to the London-Seoul route.
The £1.2 billion purchase of Asiana by Korean Air was first announced in November 2020 but the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) had raised concerns that the merged airline would be the only operator on the London Heathrow-Incheon route.
Korean Air’s offer to make slots available to Virgin Atlantic to operate a daily service on the Heathrow-Incheon route has now satisfied the CMA’s concerns about a lack of competition on the route.
A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said: “We welcome the CMA’s decision regarding Virgin Atlantic’s role as the remedy taker in the Korean Air and Asiana merger, which will facilitate our entry into Seoul. We are excited to be appointed as the remedy taker to start flying to Seoul and will confirm our next steps in relation to a route start-up in due course.”
Korean Air said in a statement: “As part of the remediation effort, Korean Air will enter into a co-operative partnership with Virgin Atlantic’s operation on the London Heathrow-Seoul Incheon route.”
The proposed acquisition has now been cleared by 11 countries but has yet to secure the green light from competition authorities from the EU, US and Japan.
“Korean Air will continue to fully co-operate with all authorities to receive approvals at the earliest opportunity,” added the company.