The French government has announced a “historic” €7 billion (£6 billion) aid package to rescue Air France, whose planes have been grounded by virus lockdowns around the world.

Speaking on national television TF1, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire pledged four billion euros of loan guarantees and three billion euros of direct loans to “save our national airline”.

In exchange for the bailout, Mr Le Maire said the government would set conditions of profitability and more environmentally sustainable, less polluting policies.

He said the government is not currently considering nationalising Air France.

Air France-KLM chief executive Ben Smith hailed the “unparalleled vote of confidence” from the government, which is the airline’s largest single shareholder.

The company would have run out of cash “in the very near future” without this help, he said.

He promised the company would “rethink our model immediately” to stay competitive once virus confinement measures start allowing more air travel.

The French government is also considering a €5 billion loan guarantee for carmaker Renault, Mr Le Maire said.

Meanwhile, the Dutch government has pledged up to €4 billion to save flag carrier KLM amid the coronavirus crisis.

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