European regulators have approved Air France-KLM's planned acquisition of a 31% stake in Virgin Atlantic. 

The acquisition, announced by the companies in July 2017, is part of a broader arrangement proposed by Delta, Virgin Atlantic and Air France-KLM to combine Delta's bilateral joint ventures with Virgin Atlantic and Air France into a unified three-way transatlantic joint venture. Delta is already a 49% owner of Virgin Atlantic. 

Under joint ventures, carriers receive immunity from antitrust regulations, allowing them to jointly schedule, market and operate flights and share revenue and costs.

The European Commission said it had reviewed the impact of the Air France-KLM share purchase on the market for air travelers, with an eye toward the fact that the acquisition will leave Air France-KLM, Delta and the Virgin Group with joint control over Virgin Atlantic.

"Virgin Atlantic, Delta and Air France-KLM are not close competitors and they continue to face significant competition from other carriers on the routes where the activities of both airlines overlap," the commission concluded.

In an email, Virgin Atlantic said the merger approval will result in a new codeshare agreement this spring between Virgin, Air France and KLM. 

The carrier added that it expects regulatory approval of the joint venture expansion "will be granted in due course."

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