Air France-KLM appears poised to take over Alitalia after the board of the Italian airline accepted a Euro138 million takeover bid.
The deal now depends on the agreement of the Italian government, which controls half the airline, and Alitalia unions.
The outgoing government sanctioned a takeover by Air France-KLM, but then collapsed in January. A general election on April 9 is likely to see it replaced by an administration formed by Silvio Berlusconi, who has opposed a sell-off.
Unions have pledged to strike against job cuts. But now Air France is demanding their agreement to the loss of 1,600 jobs.
The Air France offer follows more than a year of attempts to sell the airline and represents only about 20% of the share value of Alitalia. The carrier has Euro1.2 billion of debt and has been losing Euro1 million a day.