Qatar Airways is in discussions with Boeing about the 777-9X, and could be among the launch customers if the two parties can agree terms.
"If we can iron out all our requirements and they can iron out all the performance specifications, then we would be interested [in being a launch customer]," says Akbar Al Baker, chief executive of the Doha-based airline.
Boeing is working to secure launch customers for the new 777X models, which comprises the 777-300ER-sized, ultra-long-range 777-8X and the 777-9X stretch, which has similar range to the -300ER but carries around 50 more passengers.
Boeing comments about the pace of the discussions with potential customers hints that a launch could be timed for the Dubai air show in November. Local carrier Emirates is also in discussions about being a launch customer.
Speaking at the Paris air show, Al Baker said that his focus would be on the larger -9X variant, and that he doesn't see a need for the -8X at Qatar Airway: "I am more interested in -9. I think it will perform better than Boeing says, just like the 777-300ER has.
"Quite simply, I would never bought any more 777-200LRs if I'd known how good the performance of the -300ER would be. All the missions that I bought the -200LR for can also be done with the -300ER, which is why I ordered some more."
Another factor is Qatar Airways' 37 orders for the Airbus A350-1000, which is similar in size to the 777-8X, but will have less range. "I think that the A350-1000 will be able to do all the missions that today I would use the 777-8X for," says Al Baker.