By Jonathan Davies

Sir Richard Branson says it is "absolutely wrong" that British Airways' owner IAG is being allowed to buy Irish airline Aer Lingus.

Despite admitting that Virgin Atlantic has considered a takeover over for Aer Lingus, he said it should remain and "independent competitor", claiming the deal should "not be allowed".

On Monday, Virgin Atlantic urged the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to take a "hard look" at the €1.4 billion takeover deal.

Aer Lingus is so attractive because of its transatlantic flights to the US and its runway slots at Heathrow.

“I think it’s absolutely wrong,” said Sir Richard. “I find it incredible that the competition authorities allow such things to happen.

“As much as possible, airlines like Aer Lingus should remain independent competitors of British Airways [and] not be allowed to merge.

“You’re taking away valuable competition on the Irish routes by allowing BA to take them over.”

The Virgin founder said British Airways should also be denied more runway slots if a third runway is to be built at Heathrow.

The Airports Commission is to this year deliver a verdict on the preferred choice of expanding flight capacity in London.

“We will argue very strongly that British Airways have already got a complete dominance of slots at Heathrow and that those should be allocated to other companies,” he said.