Hainan Airlines wants to buy 30 787 airliners from Boeing

China’s fourth largest airline, Hainan Airlines, says it plans to order 30 787 Dreamliners from Boeing.

At list prices, those planes would be worth some $7.7 billion. The order would be the largest for the Dreamliner this year.

Hainan said it plans to use the planes, which seat between 250 and 300 passengers, to develop routes from major Chinese hub airports to secondary cities in the U.S. and elsewhere and from major hubs overseas to secondary Chinese cities. Most routes between China and the U.S. and Europe now connect major hub airports in both countries.

The 787’s range, economy and smaller size makes the aircraft perfect for developing smaller markets not suitable for larger planes such as the Airbus A380, Boeing 777 and Boeing 747-8.

The order has not yet been signed. Boeing had no comment.

Hainan currently links Seattle with Beijing and it plans to add another route from Sea-Tac to Shanghai this year. Other U.S. airports Hainan has targeted are Boston and San Jose.

An order backlog of more than 800 Dreamliners has discouraged airlines from signing for new Dreamliners from Boeing because delivery dates were five years distant. United Airlines may free up some earlier delivery dates if it switches some of its Dreamliner orders to the larger 777-300ER, a move that has long been rumored.

Boeing builds 787s both at its wide-body plant in Everett and in North Charleston, South Carolina.