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Alitalia to Cancel 150 Daily Flights from Milan

Alitalia will cancel 150 flights that it currently operates daily out of its Milan Malpensa hub as part of a "survival" plan to stem losses while it hunts for a buyer, a union source said on Monday.

Alitalia announced last week it would scale back its presence in Milan as part of the new plan, but had not indicated how many flights and employees would be affected.

Alitalia's new chairman Maurizio Prato on Monday met with the airline's notoriously tough unions to seek their support for the initiative, which has already drawn sharp opposition from local politicians and officials in Milan.

Prato told union officials that Alitalia's next board meeting on Friday will formally give the green light to seek a cash infusion and denied plans to shed the airline's Alitalia Express unit, union officials said.

Italian media had earlier reported that the unit, which operates short-haul routes within Italy, could be sold.

Prato did not give a figure on the number of jobs that Alitalia plans to cut or the amount of capital that it would try to raise in coming months, union officials said.

Alitalia, worth 1.2 billion euros on the market, has been struggling amid steadily mounting losses, stiff competition from low-cost carriers and widespread inefficiency.

It is seeking a buyer after the Italian Treasury's efforts to sell its 49.9% stake in the airline via an auction failed in July, but it is unclear who, if anyone, is in the lead to buy the stake this time around.

Italy's government is working on privatizing Alitalia as quickly as possible since delays only represent a risk, Enrico Letta, the cabinet undersecretary, said on Monday, without offering further details.

A union source told Reuters last week the airline is expected to seek 1.5 billion euros through a stock offering and begin efforts to reduce its workforce by 1,000 employees.