Korean Air buyout of Asiana cleared by UK with Virgin Atlantic set to benefit

Korean Air plane A380 flying in the air
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The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has given the merger between Korean Air and Asiana its approval.

The CMA were concerned the buyout of Asiana Airlines by Korean Air could lead to higher prices for passengers flying between London and Seoul, as well as impacting air cargo services.

Korean Air and Asiana Airlines are the only operators between the two capital cities so competition would only come from carriers offering indirect flights.

Around 150,000 passengers travelled from London to Seoul in 2019 and demand is expected to rise to these levels in the near future.

The CMA, following a process lasting over two years, confirmed on March 1, 2023, it was satisfied that undertakings given by Korean Air are appropriate to “remedy the substantial lessening of competition”.

The ruling is for both scheduled air passenger transport services and air cargo transport services.

Undertakings made by Korean Air included agreeing to make slots available for Virgin Atlantic to operate between London and Seoul.

According to Business Travel News, Korean Air released a statement, which read: “The CMA’s approval is evidence that the proposed remedies submitted by the airline have resolved competition restriction concern.”

It continued: “As part of the remediation effort, Korean Air will enter a co-operative partnership with Virgin Atlantic’s operation on the London Heathrow-Seoul Incheon route.”

In the UK CMA is duty bound to step in when any merger withing the UK may mean “substantial lessening of competition.”

The merger remains subject to control clearance in the US, Japan and the EU.

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