Vietnamese start-up Bamboo Airways is in talks with Boeing to order as many as 12 777X twinjets.

The deal, which would be valued at up to $5 billion at list prices, could be finalised in the second quarter, the airline confirms.

“We are now discussing with Boeing,” Bamboo tells Cirium. On the timing of the negotiations, the airline says it has spotted an opportunity in the market given the challenges that the coronavirus has posed to main competitors Vietnam Airlines and VietJet Air.

Cirium reported on 12 February that Vietnam Airlines was looking to lease out some of its 787s, A350s and A321s for six-month terms. The Vietnamese flag-carrier said the aircraft were available for lease as a result of a reduction in operational demand attributed to the impact of the coronavirus.

Bamboo appears to be taking the opposite strategy by diving into discussions for a dozen high-priced widebodies.

Cirium fleets data shows that Bamboo already has three Boeing aircraft in service, all 787-9s, and a further 10 787-9s on firm order. The airline, which has also signed letters of intent covering a further 20 of those aircraft, declined to specify whether it might switch some of its Boeing orders to the 777X.

Nor did it give details on how the 777Xs would be financed. Bamboo’s entire current fleet is leased.

Bamboo’s in-service Airbus fleet comprises one A319, nine A320s, three A321s, four A320neos and four A321neos. The airline has two A321neos on firm order and has signed letters of intent covering a further 24.

Start-up airlines in Vietnam have a mixed track record. VietJet has expanded rapidly and placed orders for hundreds of aircraft. On the other side of the coin, Vietnamese conglomerate Vingroup this month abandoned plans to establish an airline known as Vinpearl Air, citing a desire to focus on its core strengths and potential oversupply in the aviation market.

The maiden flight of the 777X on 25 January began at least a year of flight testing involving four aircraft, ahead of first delivery to launch customer Emirates.

Bamboo had no comment on delivery dates for its potential 777X order.