Airbus’s A380 superjumbo has been handed a lifeline after it said an order for up to 36 aircraft – potentially worth as much as $16bn – had been placed by carrier Emirates.
It comes days after the European aircraft maker said it would have no choice but to close production of the model if the deal fell through, despite interest in smaller orders from others.
Business Secretary Greg Clark said it was “fantastic news” for Airbus and its 15,000-strong UK workforce.
The Toulouse-based company assembles wings for all its commercial aircraft at a plant in Broughton, north Wales, where 6,000 people are employed. Trade union Unite said the deal secured jobs there.
Airbus also has a key design and engineering unit for aircraft in Filton, Bristol, where 4,000 people work.
The announcement propelled shares in the company to a record high.
Airbus said Emirates had placed a provisional order for 20 of the double-decker superjumbos, and an option for 16 more, with deliveries due to start in 2020.
The $16bn total value reflects the list price of the transaction, something which is often lowered during negotiations over large orders.
It is a lifeline for the slow-selling superjumbo, which has been in service for just 10 years, and ends months of tough talks.
Negotiations between Airbus and Emirates had broken down at the last minute at the Dubai Airshow in November, when the Middle East carrier placed an order for 40 smaller 787 aircraft made by Airbus’s US rival Boeing.
Earlier this week, Airbus confirmed that securing the deal was critical for the A380.
Announcing the agreement on Thursday, sales chief John Leahy said: “This new order underscores Airbus’ commitment to produce the A380 for at least another 10 years.
“I’m personally convinced more orders will follow Emirates’ example and that this great aircraft will be built well into the 2030s.”
Mr Clark said: “This is fantastic news for Airbus, its 15,000 highly skilled UK workforce, the supply chain and our economy.
“The A380 is an iconic aircraft and today’s deal underlines Airbus’s commitment to its production over the long term.”
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Emirates is by far the largest operator of the 544-seat superjumbo, with 101 currently in service and a backlog of 41 already on order before the latest announcement.
The last order by another airline for the A380 was in 2015, when Japan’s ANA booked three.