Delta Air Lines and easyJet have been confirmed as interested parties in a potential bid to take over troubled Alitalia.

The two carriers are in talks with Italy’s state railway company Ferrovie dello Stato (FS) about forming a consortium to explore options for the future operations of the Italian carrier.

Alitalia entered administration in 2017 after a series of restructurings and investments over the past decade failed to revive the airline.

FS said yesterday it had approved negotiations with Delta and easyJet to agree a plan for Alitalia.

Delta and easyJet said that talks with the state-backed rail company were ongoing.

However, the UK budget carrier cautioned that there was “no certainty” it would proceed with a transaction to buy a stake in Alitalia.

The airline said: “Following submission of easyJet’s non-binding expression of interest in a restructured Alitalia in October 2018, easyJet confirms that it is in discussions with Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane and Delta Air Lines about forming a consortium to explore options for the future operations of Alitalia.

“There is no certainty at this stage that any transaction will proceed and easyJet will provide a further update in due course, if and when appropriate.”

Delta said it had submitted a “general and non-binding letter of interest” to FS about a consortium approach in a future Alitalia together with easyJet.

The country’s populist coalition government was reported by Italian media to be inclined to back a deal with Delta and easyJet, as long as Ferrovie dello Stato retained a majority stake in Alitalia.

The sale and restructuring of Alitalia had earlier been delayed by the change in government in Rome.

The new leadership has made it clear to prospective bidders that any offer should include a domestic group owning a majority stake in Alitalia, according to the Financial Times.

“The government is willing to participate in the creation of a New Alitalia, through the economy ministry, on the condition that this is in line with European rules and that there is a sustainable business plan in place,” prime minister Giuseppe Conte’s office said.

Delta is already a 49% shareholder in Virgin Atlantic, has a similar stake in Aeromexico and 3.6% of China Eastern Airlines.