Budget airline Ryanair said on Thursday it was ready to launch 80 routes to two Milan airports, stepping in as struggling Alitalia cuts back in Italy's industrial heartland.

Europe's biggest low-cost carrier is prepared to use an additional 12 airliners at Milan's Malpensa airport and another six at Serio airport in Bergamo, company spokesman Peter Sherrard told a news conference.

The planes are worth more than $1 billion (493 million pounds) at list prices and part of a hefty backlog of 171 planes Ryanair has on order with Boeing.

The expansion would be in reaction to Alitalia's plans to nearly halve its 340 daily flights from Malpensa, Sherrard said.

At Malpensa, Ryanair would launch 50 European flights and 10 to Italian destinations, he said.

Ryanair management is set to discuss the plan with executives from Milan airports operator SEA on Friday in Dublin.

The Dublin-based airline said it was ready to fill the gaps that Alitalia might abandon, though Alessia Viviani, Ryanair's head of marketing in Italy, said it was too early to say whether it would try to buy slots from Alitalia.

State-controlled Alitalia announced a survival plan in August that included scaling back its presence at Malpensa. Alitalia has hubs at Malpensa and Rome's Fiumicino.

Shares in Ryanair were down 0.19 percent at 5.22 pounds in London at 9:33 a.m., while Alitalia shares were up 1.5 percent at 0.8075 euro.