Gulf Air has converted a long-standing order for 16 Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners to the -9 variant, with the move forming part of a new strategy to support future growth.

Announced on the opening day of the 21-23 January Bahrain International Air Show, the step follows what the locally based carrier refers to as "extensive negotiations with the aircraft manufacturer".

Deliveries of the extended-range aircraft are set to begin in April 2018. The variant switch will not affect the airline's earlier schedule for introduction of the type.

"The 787-9 will replace Gulf Air's current widebody fleet and provide future network expansion opportunities," says the carrier. Its existing inventory includes six Airbus A330-200s, which Flightglobal's Fleets Analyzer database records as being between 15 and 16 years old.

Speaking to Flightglobal at the show, acting chief executive Maher Salman Al Musallam noted that Gulf Air's original 787-8 order dated back to 2007-2008. "The demand now is different. Gulf Air is looking for something different," he says, pointing to its ambitious network expansion plan for the next 10 years.

Gulf Air will take its 787-9s in a 280-seat configuration, Al Musallam says. The carrier sees the business as worth up to $4.2 billion, and expects to make an engine selection next month between the General Electric GEnx and Rolls-Royce Trent 1000.

Finance chief Sahar Ataei says Gulf Air's Dreamliner deal comprises 10 firm aircraft plus six options.

This story has been updated to include the order breakdown provided by Ataei

Source: Cirium Dashboard