Production of the Airbus A380 superjumbo is to end after 12 years in 2021, the European aerospace giant confirmed today.

The end of the line for the 500-plus passenger double decker aircraft came as Emirates slashed its orders by 39 aircraft.

Airbus said: “Following a review of its operations, and in light of developments in aircraft and engine technologies, Emirates is reducing its A380 order book from 162 to 123 aircraft.

“As a consequence and given the lack of order backlog with other airlines, Airbus will cease deliveries of the A380 in 2021.”

The Dubai-based carrier will take delivery of 14 further A380s over the next two years but is switching to smaller new generation widebody aircraft with orders for 40 A330-900 and 30 A350-900s.

Airbus will start discussions regarding the 3,000 to 3,500 positions potentially impacted over the next three years.

However, the ongoing ramp-up of the A320 and the new widebody order from Emirates will offer a “significant number of internal mobility opportunities,” the company said.

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 leads to the end of A380 deliveries in 2021.

“The consequences of this decision are largely embedded in our 2018 full year results”.

“The A380 is not only an outstanding engineering and industrial achievement. Passengers all over the world love to fly on this great aircraft.

“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.”

Guillaume Faury, president of Airbus commercial aircraft and CEO-elect, added: “The A380 is Emirates’ flagship and has contributed to the airline’s success for more than ten years.

“As much as we regret the airline’s position, selecting the A330neo and A350 for its future growth is a great endorsement of our very competitive widebody aircraft family.

“Going forward, we are fully committed to deliver on the longstanding confidence Emirates is placing in Airbus.”

Airbus reported net income for 2018 up by 29% to €3 billion as revenues rose by 8% year-on-year to €63.7 billion.

Revealing the annual financial resukts, Enders said: “Though 2018 had plenty of challenges for us, we delivered on our commitments with record profitability thanks to a strong operational performance, particularly in Q4.

“With an order backlog of around 7,600 aircraft, we intend to ramp-up aircraft production even further. However, due to the lack of airline demand we have to wind down production of the A380.”

Emirates chairman and chief executive Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum said: “Emirates has been a staunch supporter of the A380 since its very inception.

“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.

“For us, the A380 is a wonderful aircraft loved by our customers and our crew. It is a differentiator for Emirates.

“We have shown how people can truly fly better on the A380, and Emirates has set the standards for that by introducing customer experiences that are unique to the A380 like our Shower Spas and Onboard Lounge.

“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.”

On the decision to purchase A330neos and A350s, he said: “Emirates’ fleet strategy to operate a young, modern, and efficient all-wide body fleet remains unchanged.

“The 40 A330neos and 30 A350s that we are ordering today will complement Emirates’ fleet mix, support our network growth, and give us more flexibility to better serve seasonal or opportunistic demand.

“Both the A330neos and A350s will play an important role in our future fleet and network plans.”

The A330neos will be deployed on Emirates’ regional destinations, while enabling the airline to also serve smaller airports and open new routes and connectivity.

The A350s will supplement long-haul operations, providing the carrier with added flexibility of capacity on eight to 12-hour flights from its Dubai hub.