Emirates Airbus A380. Picture: BLOOMBERG
Emirates Airbus A380. Picture: BLOOMBERG

London — Airbus and Emirates signed a contract on Sunday for delivery of an additional 20 double-decker airplanes, the airline said in a statement, ensuring production of the giant jet will continue for at least the next decade.

The Dubai-based carrier, already the biggest A380 customer, had signed an outline agreement for the planes on January 18 with an option to buy 16 more, worth a potential $16bn at list prices. The contract was signed on the sidelines of the World Government Summit in Abu Dhabi.

"This agreement underscores our commitment to the A380 programme, providing stability to the A380 production line and supporting tens of thousands of high-value jobs," Emirates chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum said in a statement. "We look forward to continue working with Airbus to further enhance the aircraft and onboard product."

The deal will extend A380 production until 2029 if Emirates takes all of the planes, according to Airbus, which as recently as mid-January had acknowledged that the programme could be terminated without a new sale soon. The carrier had scuttled a deal for the same number of aircraft towards the end of last year amid doubts about the manufacturer’s dedication to improving the plane.

The new planes will be delivered from 2020, with engine options being evaluated. Rolls-Royce Holdings is supplying turbines as part of Emirates’s most recent order for 50 A380s, while the Engine Alliance of General Electric and Pratt & Whitney powered the previous 90.

If Emirates signs off on the full deal, it will have committed to a total of 178 A380s, or more than half of all orders for the plane worldwide. The carrier currently has 101 superjumbos in its fleet, and many older aircraft will have been phased out before the new batch arrives.