Toulouse - John Leahy, chief operating officer - customers at Airbus, confirmed that without new orders from Emirates, production of the A380 would be halted.

The rumor was already running for several weeks, but yesterday, on January 15, Airbus officially declared that it was considering to stop the production of the A380.

If we can not reach an agreement with Emirates, it is clear that we will have to stop the program,
said John Leahy, when publishing the manufacturer's annual results.

According to Airbus' chief salesman, Emirates is the only airline capable of taking six to eight A380 a year for the next six to eight years. There will be a time that demand for the Airbus' superjumbo will return as a solution to relieve air traffic in large congested airports, Leahy believes.

It's a plane, I assure you, that its time will come. We will sell six to eight a year until the market reaches 25 a year, but it will take a few more years to achieve it,
said John Leahy.

Emirates, which has received 101 of the 142 A380s that it has ordered, plans to get more A380 between 30 and 40. Negotiations failed at the Dubai Air Show last November. John Leahy, who will be retiring in a few weeks, confirmed that discussions were continuing and he is still confident about reaching an agreement with the Gulf Company.

In the meantime, Airbus' Commercial Aircraft President Fabrice Brégier has described 2017 as "difficult" for the A380 program. The superjumbo finished the year with a negative order balance of 2 units due to cancellations. Airbus delivered 15 A380s in 2017, compared to 28 a year earlier. This number will be reduced to 12 in 2018, 8 in 2019 and could fall to 6 devices beyond.

The salvation of the A380 could come from China. Fabrice Brégier confirmed that discussions had been held with the Chinese side for an industrial partnership on the A380 program.

We need to convince Chinese airlines that the A380 will increase their market share and improve their image by operating from major Chinese hubs. China will become the world's largest market, and we believe the biggest market deserves the biggest plane,
Brégier said.

At the end of December, there were 95 A380s on the Airbus order book. But according to analysts, half could never be delivered, because of the cancellations.

The problem is not unique to Airbus' superjumbo. Boeing 747-8 also finished 2017 with a negative balance of 2 units while 12 aircraft (cargo version) remain to be produced.

The future rather seems to belong to the new-generation twin-engines. Airbus already started studying on the future long-haul carrier A350-2000, an extended version of the A350-1000. But a launch is not envisaged before the arrival of the new generation engines.