Airbus A380 jets could see production halt if Emirates deal won't fly

PARIS -- Airbus could abandon its high-profile superjumbo A380 if it can't strike a long-term deal with the Dubai-based airline Emirates for a steady supply of the costly planes.

The Toulouse, France-based aviation giant's chief salesman John Leahy told reporters Monday that "if we can't work out a deal with Emirates, there is no choice but to shut down the program."

Leahy said the airline is "the only one who has the ability" to commit to a minimum of six planes a year for a minimum of eight to 10 years, which Airbus said it needs to make the program viable.

The double-decker A380 -- the world's largest passenger airplane, seating between 525 and 850 people depending on flight-class configurations -- drew worldwide attention when launched a decade ago but has long generated questions as to whether it could generate enough demand.

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The announcement came as Airbus announced it sold 1,109 planes last year, outstripping rival Boeing (BA) thanks to a raft of end-of-year deals.

The European planemaker reported Monday that it delivered 718 planes in 2017, fewer than Boeing's 763 but a record for Airbus. Outgoing CEO Fabrice Bregier said Airbus will speed up production in the coming year, notably of its long-delayed widebody A350, and hopes to out-deliver Boeing by 2020.

Bregier acknowledged "challenges" ahead but called them "manageable." In fact, Airbus is facing multiple corruption investigations, notably in Britain, France and Austria. 

In November last year, long-haul carrier Emirates purchased 40 American-made Boeing 787-10 Dreamliners at the start of the biennial Dubai Air Show, a $15.1 billion deal certain to please U.S. President Donald Trump, who has touted the plane's sales as a job creator in America. 

It was the second time Airbus has lost out on selling the A350 to Emirates. In June 2014, the state-owned Emirates cancelled an order for 70 A350s after a "fleet requirement" review. 

The Boeing 787-10 typically lists for $312.8 million. Delivery will begin in 2022.

The twin-engine 787-10, however, has been a focus of Mr. Trump since he came into office. In February, he visited the Boeing plant in North Charleston, South Carolina, which manufactures the carbon-fiber, 330-seat plane Mr. Trump described as "an amazing piece of art."