Kuala Lumpur, July 27: Struggling Malaysia Airlines on Wednesday announced plans to purchase 50 Boeing aircraft for USD 5.5 billion as it continues efforts to recover from devastating twin disasters in 2014.
Malaysia's national flag carrier said it had placed firm orders for 25 Boeing 737 MAX jets and had purchase rights for another 25. Deliveries are to commence in 2019.
New CEO Peter Bellew said the purchase of the aircraft, which are known for their fuel efficiency, would aid the airline's recovery. "This deal is a game-changer for Malaysia Airlines with much lower costs and greater efficiency which we will pass on to our loyal customers with lower fares," Bellew said in announcing the deal.
Malaysia Airlines currently operates 56 Boeing 737-800s as well as smaller numbers of Airbus aircraft. The devastating MH370 and MH17 disasters in 2014 pushed the perennially loss-making airline to the brink of bankruptcy as bookings dried up.
MH370 disappeared on March 8 of that year, en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew. Debris found in the Indian Ocean has confirmed the Boeing 777 went down but the reasons are unknown.
Four months after MH370 vanished, MH17 was blown from the sky by a suspected Russian-made ground-to-air missile over war-torn Ukraine, killing all 298 passengers and crew.
State investment fund Khazanah Nasional took the company private later that year, and in 2015 brought in German airline turnaround specialist Christoph Mueller.
Mueller soon launched a painful rescue plan that slashed 6,000 jobs and dramatically trimmed its route network. But he abruptly announced in April that he would be leaving well before the end of his three-year contract for unspecified "personal reasons".
He was succeeded on July 1 by Bellew, an Irish former executive with Ireland-based low-cost carrier RyanAir.