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READ ALSO: Ryanair makes 'non-binding' offer for Alitalia They were spared by Etihad, which took equity stakes in both as the flush Gulf airline tried to buy its way into Europe, but it lost its gamble that it could turn them around."Etihad's exit from Alitalia's capital will contribute to the acceleration of consolidation," Albernhe said.Ryanair has already eclipsed Alitalia as the largest operator in Italy.

Australia's Qantas was able to staunch the red only by undertaking in 2014 a major restructuring that saw it axe thousands of jobs, sell off dozens of aircraft and defer orders for new ones.

Also alliances may get tighter, with Air France-KLM, for example, recently allowing Sky Team partners Delta and China Eastern to take stakes in its equity capital.

A dogfight over the assets of troubled Alitalia and Air Berlin heralds a new shake-up in the European airline industry – but unless other carriers cut costs they may meet a similar fate themselves, analysts warn.

Alitalia and Air Berlin had both been operating at losses for years.

Low-cost airlines had eaten away at Alitalia's market share in particular, with Ireland's Ryanair having eclipsed it as the largest operator in Italy.

Airlines in the alliances kept their own separate fleets of planes and their own maintenance operations, thus not making much in savings in two large cost areas.

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