Airbus has revealed that it will cease production of the world’s largest commercial airliner, A380, after Emirates, the biggest customer of the model, decided to reduce its total order of the model by 39 aircraft.

The A380 was conceived as an ambitious project to addresses Boeing’s dominance of the high-capacity airliner market.

Airbus noted that the delivery of the last A380 double-decker aircraft will take place in 2021. The A380 entered service 12 years ago and faced stiff competition from smaller aircraft.

Emirates’ decision to reduce its A380 order book from 162 to 123 aircraft comes after a review of its operations and developments in aircraft and engine technologies.

Instead, the Dubai-based commercial air transportation services firm will acquire 40 A330-900 and 30 A350-900 aircraft, with deliveries set to begin from 2021 and 2024 respectively. The new deal to purchase the aircraft is valued at around $21.4bn.

Airbus CEO Tom Enders said: “As a result of this decision, we have no substantial A380 backlog and hence no basis to sustain production, despite all our sales efforts with other airlines in recent years.

“This news will come as a major disappointment to many suppliers who have invested in fixtures, tooling and plants.”

“The A380 is not only an outstanding engineering and industrial achievement. Hence today’s announcement is painful for us and the A380 communities worldwide. But, keep in mind that A380s will still roam the skies for many years to come and Airbus will, of course, continue to fully support the A380 operators.”

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According to an Airbus estimate, the decision to cut production will potentially impact between 3,000 and 3,500 positions over the next three years.

The company will commence negotiations to assess the potential job cuts and expects to minimise the impact through internal mobility opportunities provided by the ongoing A320 ramp-up and the new wide-body order from Emirates.

Airbus agreed to make outstanding A380 deliveries of 14 A380s from 2019 until the end of 2021.

Emirates Airline and Group chairman and chief executive Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum said: “While we are disappointed to have to give up our order, and sad that the programme could not be sustained, we accept that this is the reality of the situation.

“The A380 will remain a pillar of our fleet well into the 2030s, and as we have always done, Emirates will continue to invest in our onboard product and services so our customers can be assured that the Emirates A380 experience will always be top-notch.”

Responding to the development, Vendigital aerospace sector specialist Paul Adams said: “Airbus’s decision to end the production of its A380 model marks the end of an era but comes as little surprise.

“The A380 is an iconic aircraft and close to the hearts of many in the industry for its size, scale and engineering. However, in practice, flying such a large aircraft with four engines was no longer economically viable, requiring airlines to ensure it was consistently full of passengers, which was often unrealistic.

“While the Emirates order in 2017 kept things going, its production has therefore been scaled back over a number of years and a shutdown has seemed inevitable for some time.

“While the OEM originally sold the programme to suppliers on the basis of 1,500 aircraft, they have only made around 250. As such, this news will come as a major disappointment to many suppliers who have invested in fixtures, tooling and plants. However, while this development will undoubtedly have supply chain impacts, growth in other programmes, such as A320 should allow the OEM to mitigate them whilst increasing profitability across the business.”