The Airbus A380 lives on, for now.
The Dubai-based airline Emirates threw a lifeline on Thursday to the A380, the world’s largest passenger aircraft, putting in a $16 billion order for up to 36 of the planes to be delivered starting from 2020. The agreement, which includes a firm commitment to buy 20 aircraft and an option for 16 more, comes just days after Airbus said it would end production of the A380 if it did not receive more orders.
When Airbus started delivering the A380 a decade ago, it pitched the plane as the future of aviation, offering a solution to airport congestion and to increased demand for international travel. The number of planes that can land at an airport on a given day is limited, the European company argued, so the A380, with the capacity to carry more than 500 passengers, would allow airlines to transport more passengers.
But the bet on the four-engine plane turned out to be a financial disaster for Airbus as the industry increasingly used smaller airports, a shift that favored its main competitor, Boeing, and other manufacturers of midsize aircraft.
Airbus did not book any orders for the A380 last year; in fact, orders for two planes were canceled. The poor performance for the aircraft overshadowed an otherwise decent year for the company. On Monday, John Leahy, Airbus’s chief operating officer, said that if the company was unable to agree on a deal with Emirates, the superjumbo’s days might be numbered.
The deal announced on Thursday gave Airbus some respite — the company needs six to eight orders a year to ensure it can continue to manufacture the A380.