Ryanair, easyJet, Air France, Delta Air Lines, British Airways and Iberia-owner IAG, and several private equity firms are among 15 organisations reported to have submitted offers to acquire part or all of Alitalia.

Italian carrier Alitalia went into extraordinary administration, or bankruptcy protection, on May 2 after employees rejected a €2-billion rescue plan involving substantial cuts in jobs and salaries.

The airline has continued to operate its schedule.

State-appointed administrators called for expressions of interest from prospective buyers by June 5 and invited half of those received to submit non-binding offers by July 21 following access to Alitalia data.

The administrators are expected to seek binding offers from a smaller group of bidders by October. Turkish Airlines and Air China were also among the carriers to express interest in Alitalia.

EU rules mean non-EU entities cannot own more than 49% of the airline and “effective control” must remain in the hands of EU owners.

Alitalia was 49% owned by Etihad Airways based in Abu Dhabi until the latter withdrew in May, with the group’s then chief executive James Hogan declaring: “We have done all we could to support Alitalia. It is clear this business requires fundamental and far-reaching restructuring.”

The Italian carrier is a partner of Air France-KLM and Delta Air Lines in the SkyTeam alliance and party to the Air France-KLM joint-venture with Delta.

EasyJet chief executive Carolyn McCall confirmed her airline’s interest in Alitaiia last month saying: “We are interested in due diligence regarding Alitalia”

Ryanair also confirmed its interest, but only if Alitalia undergoes major restructuring. Chief executive Michael O’Leary said: “We would be interested in a majority stake.”

The administrators are charged with selecting the recovery plan which preserves most jobs. However, O’Leary said: “[The] trade unions have to face reality.”

Ryanair is understood to have proposed that it take over Alitalia’s short-haul business and sell the carrier’s long-haul flights through Ryanair.com.