Air France-KLM, Delta examining ways of keeping Alitalia in Skyteam

PARIS (Reuters) - Air France-KLM AIRF.PA and its U.S. partner Delta Air Lines DAL.N are studying ways of keeping Alitalia inside the Skyteam alliance - but without Air France-KLM being a buyer, Chief Executive Jean-Marc Janaillac said on Friday.

“We are not a potential buyer so we did not participate in the process,” Janaillac told a news conference, adding the Franco-Dutch airline group has not had access to Alitalia data.

Lufthansa LHAG.DE, which leads the rival Star Alliance and has its own North Atlantic joint venture, has said it would be interested in a bid but only if Alitalia could be restructured.

Janaillac said that given the publicly-known offers so far, there was a risk that Alitalia could leave Skyteam and the North Atlantic joint venture, which would have a negative impact for Air France-KLM.

Air France-KLM and Delta last year rejigged their North Atlantic alliance, bringing in Virgin Atlantic [VA.UL], which had a separate joint venture with Delta.

“Also, we are working (on) a new joint venture in the Atlantic with a specific role for Alitalia and it would also be quite negative to have Alitalia not as a partner but as a competitor on these North Atlantic routes,” he said.

The Italian market is of interest to airlines because of the high demand from tourists from all over the world wanting to visit the country.

British low-cost airline easyJet EZJ.L said last month that it was interested in parts of Alitalia, and that discussions were ongoing. However, it is only interested in short-haul operations, so a separate buyer would have to be found for long-haul routes.

Reporting by Tim HepherEditing by Sudip Kar-Gupta