Alitalia's board of directors late on Friday chose Air France-KLM for exclusive talks. The decision must still be ratified by the ailing flag carrier's top shareholder, the Italian state.
Ahead of a promised government decision by mid-January, politicians and labor leader are telling the state to find a better buyer for Alitalia -- a source of national pride even though it loses 1 million euros ($1.44 million) a day.
"It's folly," said Roberto Formigoni, governor of Lombardy region, home to Italy's financial capital Milan.
"Air France (has) a strategic interest in cutting its most significant competitor in half," he told Italian media.
Formigoni and other politicians in Italy's wealthy north predict Alitalia will be swallowed the Franco-Dutch airline, the world's biggest by revenues.
They also predict Air France-KLM would treat Alitalia as a more of a regional airline and transfer major routes to Paris to the detriment of Milan's Malpensa airport, sending businessmen there to make tedious connections when flying abroad.A member of the northern, separatist party Northern League threatened to block the roads leading to Malpensa in protest.