Alitalia may be renationalised as the coronavirus pandemic threatens to push the struggling flag carrier to collapse.

A decree published this week showed that the Italian government plans to take control of the airline, and that it has earmarked 600 million euros (£550 million) to keep it afloat.

A source told Reuters Alitalia had nearly run out of cash despite receiving 400 million euros from the government at the beginning of this year.

Airlines around the world have been forced to dramatically reduced operations due to the coronavirus. Airline association IATA yesterday said the industry may need $200 billion in government support to survive.

Alitalia was previously 49 per cent owned by Etihad, but the Gulf carrier withdrew from the business in 2017 following an employee vote against plans to cut jobs and salaries.

At the time, Etihad said the business required “fundamental and far-reaching restructuring”, but that it was “not prepared to continue to invest” without the support of all stakeholders.

Since then the carrier has continued operations backed by the Italian government while it attempts to find a buyer.

It has received 1.3 billion euros (£1.2 billion) in state loans in that period.

Delta, Easyjet and Italian state rail company Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane last year announced they were in discussions over a joint takeover of the carrier, but these fell through.

Air Italy, a carrier which was owned by Qatar Airways and Alisarda SpA, a holding company owned by the Aga Khan, folded last month.

Air Italy to enter liquidation and cease operations