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It’s really happening: Emirates is saving the troubled Airbus A380 program (at least for now) by buying as many as 36. Without a big order from its largest operator, the Airbus double-decker — the biggest passenger plane in the world — would have faced the risk of extinction. Emirates just finalized its order for 20 Airbus A380s with the option of 16 additional aircraft, a few weeks after signing a preliminary agreement to purchase the 500-seater jet.

The total value of the purchase is $16 billion, based on current list prices, although it’s extremely likely that the Dubai-based airline got a big discount. Deliveries of the aircraft will begin in 2020.

“This latest agreement further demonstrates the strength of our valued partnership with Emirates in support of their impressive growth,” said in a statement Fabrice Brégier, Airbus’ Chief Operating Officer.  The purchase almost single-handedly keeps the A380 in production: Airbus was reportedly close to announcing it would stop making the A380s, back in December. Except Emirates, whose business model depends on the huge numbers of passengers the A380 can move through its Dubai hub, airlines haven’t been able to consistently make their A380s profitable. The giant airliner is reported to make handsome profits when full, but that’s where the challenge is: filling 500 seats isn’t always easy. Airlines are opting for smaller airplanes instead.        

Emirates was named World’s Best Airline in TripAdvisor’s 2017 Travelers’ Choice Awards, and definitely wins fan favorite awards here at TPGThe Dubai-based carrier already owns 101 of the 221 A380s currently in the air today, and the new order will bring the total of A380s it operates to 178 aircraft once deliveries are complete. 

Featured photo by Alberto Riva / The Points Guy

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