Saving Alitalia is a matter of national pride and Italian entrepreneurs must come to the rescue of the struggling flagship carrier, a senior government minister said Tuesday.
Francesco Rutelli, the deputy premier and culture minister, said a foreign partner remained necessary for Alitalia's survival, but it should be an alliance between equals.
"Alitalia can be saved, I think that the system of Italian companies must take on its responsibilities," Rutelli said, in comments reported by Italian news agencies Apcom and ANSA.
"I'm launching an appeal to Italian businessmen," he added, according to the reports. "We cannot let our country see its carrier dominated by foreign companies whose national strategies can deeply harm our interests."
Rutelli said he expected "an impulse of pride" from Italian entrepreneurs.
Alitalia, which is 49.9 percent government-owned, loses something close to EUR2 million (US$2.7 million) a day.
A government auction to sell a controlling stake in the airline failed in July after bidders pulled out one by one, complaining the terms were too harsh.
It is not clear whether the government would ease conditions to facilitate a sale, but Rutelli suggested it might.
Rutelli said one obvious solution would be an "integration" with Air One, Italy's second-most traveled carrier. Air One had taken part in the failed auction and was widely seen as a front-runner.
Air France-KLM also said it is open to contacts with Alitalia if the Italian government seeks new bids for the airline on different terms.