Airline merger unlikely to get off the ground

European Union regulators are set to block the proposed merger of Aegean Airlines and Olympic unless they offer more concessions to encourage rival airlines to enter the Greek market, EU sources told Reuters. A veto would be the first by the European Commission since June 2007, when it blocked another deal in the airline sector: the attempt by Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair to acquire Aer Lingus. The two Greek carriers suggested some remedies to the European Commission after it opened an in-depth investigation into the merger last July over concerns that it could lead to a monopoly on many domestic routes. But the concessions offered have been insufficient to ease regulatory worries, the sources said on Thursday. Airlines typically give up airport slots or provide access to their frequent-flyer programs, among others, to secure regulatory approval for acquisitions. The Commission is expected to make a decision next week. EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia has set a February 2 deadline for the decision, although he could make an announcement on the matter as soon as January 26.