Bahraini flag-carrier Gulf Air is to begin taking delivery of its newly-ordered Boeing 787s from 2016 but is looking at arranging leases to introduce the type earlier.

The airline has confirmed that it is ordering 16 firm 787s – currently the 787-8, although the agreement allows for conversion to larger variants – and placing purchase rights on eight more.

Gulf Air says it will make an engine decision at a later date. A spokesman for the airline says that the carrier opted for the twin-jet because it has “unmatched performance and capabilities”.

The carrier is valuing the order at up to $6 billion, at catalogue prices, if all the purchase rights are exercised.

“Twenty-four aircraft is a huge order,” says the spokesman. “This will be the backbone of our fleet, and take over the long-haul operation.”

But while the aircraft will be delivered from 2016, he says the carrier wants to begin its fleet-replacement sooner, adding: “We are working with Boeing to have the 787 leased earlier.”

He says an interim lease arrangement could result in the airline introducing the type from 2010.

Gulf Air is also intending to prepare its crews for the aircraft, he adds, by acquiring a 787 simulator for its new Bahrain-based training centre.

During the Dubai Air Show last November the airline said it would overhaul its fleet with up to 35 aircraft. The spokesman says the carrier is seeking 45, including short-haul types, and that it could yet increase the long-haul component.

“It depends on what’s available. We’re still talking to both [Airbus and Boeing],” he says, and adds that the airline has not ruled out the use of regional types.

Gulf Air has a long-haul fleet based on the Airbus A330 and A340, as well as a few Boeing 767s which are being phased out. It also has Airbus A320s for short- and medium-haul routes, but recently started using leased Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

Source:'s sister premium news site Air Transport Intelligence news