Saudi Arabia’s flag carrier, Saudi Arabian Airlines, is reportedly looking into a potential order for Boeing’s 777X wide-body jets at a time when the U.S. plane maker is experiencing pressure in production and orders.

The Saudi carrier’s talks with Boeing were first reported by Reuters on July 9, 2018, citing “three sources familiar with the matter”. The airline’s director-general Saleh bin Nasser al-Jasser had previously told the news agency that a wide-body jet order would be considered in 2018.

However, it is not clear when the airline, also known as Saudia, would reach a deal with the U.S. plane maker or how many jets it would order. Neither Saudia nor Boeing have released any official statements yet.

As to the jets that the Saudi carrier could be interested in: the 350-375 seated 777-8 variant is valued $360.5 million at list price and the 400-425 seated 777-9 variant is worth $388.7 million at list price, according to Boeing, which would bring the potential purchase of these airliners to a sizeable sum for the airline.

However, it seems that Saudia is a very likely customer for the 777X Family jets, as the airline operates a mixed fleet of 148 Airbus and Boeing aircraft, including the 777 jets (nine 777-200ERs and 33 777-300ERs) as well as 13 787-9 Dreamliners.

Boeing feels the pressure

Saudia’s potential order could alleviate production pressure for the U.S. plane maker as it is now unlikely that the order for 80 jets by IranAir will be fulfilled, since it was placed before the U.S. withdrew from a nuclear deal with Iran and suggested re-imposing sanctions on the country, Reuters reports.

Saudia’s interest also comes at a time when the solidity of existing 777X orders from the Gulf are clouded by doubts, particularly from Etihad Airways, which is currently restructuring after accumulating large losses in the past two years. The UAE carrier’s order for 25 777X jets, which dates back to November 2013, remains unfulfilled in Boeing’s orders and deliveries book.

And finally, the wide-body 777X is an upgrade to Boeing’s successful 777 and 787 Dreamliner families, with a longer composite wing with folding tips, a stretched and updated fuselage, and new 100,000lb-thrust (445kN) General Electric GE9X turbofan engines.

But with the arrival of the 777X Family, Boeing is under pressure to bridge the gap between the new jets and the end of production on the 777-300ER and 777 Freighter. Which is why, the 777-9 model is due to enter service in December 2019, earlier than the previously reported 2020 date.

The 777-8 (229 ft) would succeed the ultra-long-range 777-200LR (209 ft 1 in), and compete with Airbus A350-1000. The 777-9 (252 ft) would in turn succeed the 777-300ER (242 ft 4 in) and would be longer than the previous longest airliner, the 747-8 (250 ft 2 in).