It was just three days ago that Airbus warned it might have to shut down production of its highest-profile plane because of a lack of sales. On Thursday, the under-threat Airbus A380 “superjumbo” was handed a lifeline when the Dubai-based Emirates Airlines agreed to buy up to 36 more of the aircraft in a deal that could be worth $16 billion (€13.1 billion.)
“This new order underscores Airbus’s commitment to produce the A380 at least for another 10 years,” John Leahy, the head of sales for Airbus commercial aviation who issued Monday's warning, said in a statement after signing the deal in Dubai. The Persian Gulf carrier has agreed to purchase 20 of the giant double-decker aircraft with an option for 16 more.
Emirates took delivery of its 100th A380 in Hamburg last November. The airline uses the planes on popular long-haul routes such as New Zealand to Dubai, which it can fly without stopping for fuel.
At the Dubai Air Show in 2017, Airbus suffered a humiliation when it didn’t receive a single order for the A380. John Leahy, Airbus head of sales
The interest beyond Emirates has been limited. Airbus only produced 15 of the aircraft last year and had planned to reduce production to 12 this year and eight planes in 2019, fulfilling existing orders. At the Dubai Air Show in 2017, Airbus suffered a humiliation when it didn’t receive a single order for the A380. Emirates instead ordered 40 Boeing 787-10 Dreamliners from its American rival.
Emirates had been demanding that Airbus guarantee that it would keep the A380 in production for another decade before it would agree to buying more planes. It also demanded technical improvements to the four-engine jetliner to make it more efficient.
The A380 has long been considered ahead of its time. It was designed to fly large volumes of passengers, up to 850, between overcrowded hub airports. But since it first flew in 2007, airlines have moved towards smaller, fuel-efficient planes that can link to secondary airports, such as the 787. Airbus hopes the Emirates deal will see it through to a future in which congested hub airports become the norm, creating a new market for the A380, particularly in Asia.
Charles Wallace is an editor for Handelsblatt Global based in New York. Markus Fasse is a company correspondent for Handelsblatt in Munich. To contact the authors: [email protected] and [email protected]