RIYAD, SAUDI ARABIA — Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund is in talks with Boeing and Airbus regarding orders for about 80 jets, the first aircraft purchases for a new national airline, people with knowledge of the matter said.

PIF, as the sovereign wealth fund is known, is looking to buy about 40 planes and take out purchase options for a similar number, according to the people who asked not to be identified discussing confidential negotiations. The requirement includes single-aisle aircraft and larger wide-body models able to fly long distances, they said.

Spokesmen for PIF and Airbus declined to comment, while Boeing didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Saudi Arabia said last year that it would found a second national airline alongside flag carrier Saudia as part of the Vision 2030 push to make the economy less dependent on oil. While the startup would predominantly serve the capital Riyadh, which has ambitions to become a global business hub, it would also seek to compete with larger Gulf carriers for global transfer traffic.

The order contest will pit Boeing’s 737 Max against the Airbus A320neo-series in the short-haul category, while the choice for long-haul routes will be between the American firm’s 787 Dreamliner and new 777X, which has yet to enter service, and its European rival’s A350 and re-engined A330neo.

It’s not clear whether the fleet purchase could be split between the two manufacturers.

The new airline is expected to appoint Briton Tony Douglas as its chief executive officer. Douglas last week stepped down as head of Abu Dhabi flag carrier Etihad Airways, with which the startup is likely to compete for intercontinental traffic.

Via Bloomberg