BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission has cleared Delta Air Lines to buy a 49 percent stake in British airline Virgin Atlantic , the European Union's competition watchdog said on Thursday.

The Commission said it was not concerned about the transaction because the companies would continue to face competition, especially from British Airways and American Airlines.

Delta announced the purchase in December, saying the move would allow the U.S. carrier to expand its access to London's Heathrow Airport.

Reuters reported on June 10 that Delta would receive unconditional clearance for the purchase.

(Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek)