Jan. 18 (UPI) -- Emirates Airlines agreed Thursday to order up to 36 Airbus A380s -- providing a major boost for the struggling superjumbo program.
The Dubai-based Emirates Airline signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Airbus to purchase 20 A380s with the option for 16 more. Deliveries will start in 2020.
Airbus has delivered 222 of the large double-decker jets since 2007, and has recently signaled that it may need to cease their production.
The $16 billion deal, though, may help Airbus avoid that situation.
"We are still talking to Emirates but quite honestly they are the only one that has the ability in the marketplace to take a minimum of six a year for a period of eight to 10 years," John Leahy, Airbus's top salesperson, said before the sale.
Emirates sees a viable future for the A380s in their fleet.
"We've made no secret of the fact that the A380 has been a success for Emirates," Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive of the Emirates Airline and Group, said. "Our customers love it, and we've been able to deploy it on different missions across our network, giving us flexibility in terms of range and passenger mix."
"Some of the new A380s we've just ordered will be used as fleet replacements. This order will provide stability to the A380 production line."
Leahy said the A380s "contributed enormously" to Emirates' growth since 2008.
"This new order underscores Airbus' commitment to produce the A380 at least for another ten years," Leahy said. "I'm personally convinced more orders will follow Emirates' example and that this great aircraft will be built well into the 2030s."
According to Airbus, more than 200 million passengers have flown aboard an A380 and the planes have been delivered to 13 airlines.