Union sources said job losses at Alitalia are part of a restructuring plan, according to Reuters (Reuters)

Italy's largest airline may slash up to 2,600 jobs in order to cut costs after its top shareholder refused a plea for cash.

Union sources said job losses at Alitalia are part of a restructuring plan the company approved last week to cut costs and keep its planes in the air.

"The numbers in the restructuring plan talk about 2,500-2,600 job cuts - 1,300 are fixed-term contracts and then there is talk of 220 pilots, 400 cabin staff and 600-700 ground staff," one of the sources told Reuters.

Italy's unions, including the Italian General Confederation of Labour, said they would battle the potential job losses and Susanna Camusso, head of the CGIL union, stressed their response would be "very, very hard".

The airline's restructuring plan, which would target cost savings of between €200m ($270m, £167m) and €400m, failed to convince the company's top shareholder Air France last week.

The French-Dutch group claimed the proposed measures were not radical enough to cut Alitalia's debt and decided not to invest a €300m capital increase and allow its 25% stake to be diluted to just 7%.

The embattled airline has yet to find another strategic partner to replace Air France.

Potential partners, including, Etihad Airways and Lufthansa, have all distanced themselves from the Italian airline for now.

Alitalia has not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.