The deal has angered BA’s main rival Virgin – Richard Branson has reacted angrily, claiming the takeover ‘screws the travelling public’. Virgin has also been in talks to buy the loss-making BMI.

The sale of BMI, a deal worth £172.5 million, will see British Airways/IAG grabbing a big piece of the commercial airline market – securing more than half of the Heathrow landing slots – a move which Virgin will attempt to block in a legal battle.

“We will be asking the competition authorities to stop this deal and to protect the many millions of passengers on routes where BA and BMI currently compete.” said a statement from Virgin,

“With Heathrow sewn up, BA can use its monopoly power to force up prices at the expense of the consumer.”

IAG has warned that the potential deal could lead to job losses for BMI’s current operating staff.

“Given the scale of BMI’s losses, there is an urgent need to restructure the business. Unfortunately, this will mean some job losses but we will secure a significant number of high quality jobs here in the UK and create similar new jobs in the future.” said the head of IAG, Willie Walsh.

British Midland International Airlines currently operates domestic UK flights from Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh, East Midlands and Birmingham.