The European Commission (EC) has approved the alliance between KLM and Alitalia, but has made the near-merger subject to several conditions designed to ensure that third carriers have access to the two carriers' main hubs.

The approval offers no objections to the total financial, organisational and legal integration of KLM and Alitalia. The EC concludes that the deal does not raise major competition issues because the activities of Alitalia and KLM are largely complementary.

It says, however, that the alliance "raises concerns" on the Amsterdam-Rome/Milan routes linking the carriers' hubs "because they are the only airlines operating between them". It has demanded that up to 224 slots be made available to new entrants to either route.

About 112 extra slots must also be made available to allow airlines currently not operating at Rome, Milan or Amsterdam to stop over and fly on to one of the two other airports. The EC says this will increase the number of airlines able to enter the market.

The pair must also reduce frequencies on the Amsterdam-Rome/Amsterdam-Milan routes when a new entrant begins operations, up to a maximum of 40%, and must also enter into interline agreements with it.

Source: Flight International