Aircraft manufacturer Airbus has announced plans to stop the production of the world’s largest commercial passenger plane, the A380 superjumbo, by 2021.
The European aviation giant said on Thursday it would cease production of the airliner after 12 years in service due to weak sales.
With two decks of spacious cabins and room for 544 people in the standard layout, the superjumbo was designed to challenge Boeing’s legendary 747, but it failed to take hold as airlines backed a new generation of smaller, nimbler jets.
The company said in a statement that Emirates – a UAE-based airline, which had the A380 as the backbone of its fleet – is cutting back its orders for the plane as a result.
“Emirates has been a staunch supporter of the superjumbo since its very inception,” Emirates Chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum told Reuters.
“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,” he added.
Airbus will produce 17 more of the planes including 14 for Emirates and 3 for Japanese airline ANA.
Despite the Emirates reducing its orders for the iconic superjumbo, it struck a deal worth $21.4bn placing a new order for 70 of the smaller A350 and A330 neo models partially restoring a purchase of A350 aircraft which it cancelled in 2014.
The European company said it would enter into talks with unions in coming weeks over the 3,000-3,500 jobs potentially affected.
Discussions ongoing with unions
Al Jazeera’s Natacha Butler, reporting from the Airbus headquarters in Toulouse, said that while workers might find the news alarming, shareholders will be relieved that the long-haul aircraft’s days are coming to an end.
“In terms of the workers, they will be extremely worried about what this means for them and their future.”
“Discussions are ongoing with unions to try and see as to what will happen to the staff and the workers that are affected by this decision in the coming months.”
Airbus’s decision is good news for rival Boeing. Airbus had hoped the A380 would squeeze out Boeing’s 747 and revolutionise air travel as more people take to the skies.
But sales of the industry’s largest four-engined jets have fallen due to the improvements in lighter twin-engined alternatives, such as the Boeing 787 and 777 or Airbus’s own A350.
Airlines have also been cautious about committing to the costly plane, so huge that airports had to build new runways and modify terminals to accommodate it.
The twin-deck planes started flying in 2008 and seat more than 500 passengers.
The decision to scrap production is the last major step by outgoing Airbus Chief Executive Tom Enders.
Al Jazeera and news agencies