Italy's economic development minister says that failing airline Alitalia will receive a government bridge loan to keep it operational while a new owner is sought.

Carlo Calenda told Radio 24 on Wednesday that a loan of 300 million to 400 million euros ($326 million-$435 million) would keep the airline flying for six months under receivership.

Asked if German airline Lufthansa was interested in buying the company, Calenda gave a quick "I hope," then added more cautiously, "It would be interesting to explore."

Italy's flagship airline is on the verge of bankruptcy after workers rejected a government-brokered deal that would have unlocked 2 billion euros in investments from its managing shareholder, Etihad, and a consortium of Italian businesses, led by Italian banks UniCredit and Intesa SanPaolo, that holds a 51-percent share.