Delta Air Lines and easyJet have confirmed they are in talks over the future of Alitalia.
The American carrier and UK-based low-cost airline confirmed they have linked with Italy’s state-backed railway company Ferrovie dello Stato to examine a bid for the flag-carrier.
Alitalia was placed in administration in 2017 after part owner Etihad Airways and the Italian state refused to invest further funds.
The decision followed a decade of decline at the airline, with a series of restructurings and investments failing to turn its fortunes around.
Ferrovie dello Stato said in a statement that it would begin negotiations with Delta and easyJet to agree a plan for Alitalia.
However, easyJet cautioned that there was “no certainty” it would proceed with a transaction to buy a stake.
In its own statement, Delta Air Lines said: “Delta confirms that it has submitted a general and non-binding letter of interest to Ferrovie dello Stato about exploring a consortium approach in a future Alitalia together with easyJet.
“Alitalia is a long-standing partner of Delta, forming a part of our trans-Atlantic joint venture with Air France and KLM.”
To secure a deal easyJet and Delta would need to convince the Italian government that they are the best partners to stabilise Alitalia.
Since it entered administration other carriers, notably Ryanair and Lufthansa, have been linked with potential involvement, but no formal deals have been struck.
Any deal would likely result in job losses at the loss-making airline.
The sale of the Italian flag-carrier has been delayed by a change in government in Rome.
However, the new populist leadership under prime minister Giuseppe Conte has made it clear to prospective bidders that any offer should include a domestic group owning a majority stake in Alitalia.