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By Alexander Cornwell
DUBAI, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Talks between SaudiGulf Airlines and Boeing could include deals for the 787 Dreamliner, the Saudi carrier’s chief commercial officer said on Monday.
The privately owned airline signed a preliminary agreement for 16 Boeing jets last May during a visit to Saudi Arabia by U.S. President Donald Trump.
SaudiGulf’s Chief Commercial Officer Karim Makhlouf said that the agreement covers talks for the 787-9 and 787-10 or the 777-200 and 777-300 jets. The airline previously said the deal could include Boeing 777s.
SaudiGulf operates a fleet of four 136-seat Airbus A320s on six domestic routes and will launch its first international flight to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on March 1.
Two Airbus A320 or larger A321 jets will be added to its fleet this year to launch flights to Pakistani cities Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar and Sialkot.
“We are in good talks with Boeing,” Makhlouf told Reuters in an interview in Dubai.
The wide-body aircraft could be delivered within the next three to four years, he said.
SaudiGulf has not indicated exactly which aircraft it intends to take and the talks have not yet produced an order.
The airline aims to fill at least 70 percent of its seats this year, up from 65 percent in 2017, and plans to increase usage of its planes to at least 12 hours a day in 2018, up from about 11 hours last year.
The airline is also in talks with Airbus and Boeing to buy A320s or Boeing 737s to build a narrow-body fleet of about 30 jets, Makhlouf said.
It is still considering whether to take delivery of 16 Bombardier CS300s ordered prior to SaudiGulf’s launch in 2016, he said.
SaudiGulf, owned by the Abdel Hadi Al-Qahtani & Sons Group, is Saudi Arabia’s youngest airline, having started domestic operations in October 2016. It competes against state-owned Saudi Arabian Airlines and discount operator Flynas, as well as smaller carriers, in a domestic market of 32 million people. (Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Tom Balmforth)