737-8Max; Malaysia Airlines; Flying above clouds;Artisitic Rendering; view from lower right side; slight banking turn to left; Sunny Weather; K66558

MIAMI — Malaysia Airlines has placed an order for up to 50 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, in a move that seeks to optimize costs and improve its competitivity in a market led by low-cost carriers.

The 50 737 MAX jets—25 on firm order, with options for another 25—are valued at $5.5 billion at list prices, and it was previously attributed to an unidentified customer in the airframer’s order book. The options includes rights for both 737 MAX 8 and 737 MAX 9 variants.

“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,” said Malaysia Airlines Chief Executive Officer Peter Bellew, who just took over as chief executive of the carrier last month after Christoph Müeller stepped down due to personal reasons.

Bellew said Malaysia Airlines will rely on the 737 MAX order as the cornerstone for its growth strategy in the short-to-medium haul route networks, providing more capacity and improved economics to better compete with LCCs in the region.

“This new aircraft order will set the stage for our continued recovery and success into the next decade.” Bellew said.

Last year, Malaysia Airlines underwent a major renovation, after two air disasters, the lost flight MH370 and the shoot-down of MH17, in 2014, which topped an already dismal financial performance. Since then, the carrier has retired its Boeing 777-200ER fleet, and plans to phase out its six Airbus A380-800s, replacing these by six A350-900s.

Besides the six Airbus A380s in service, Malaysia Airlines currently operates 56 Boeing 737-800s and 15 Airbus A330-300s.