Airbus A380 of Emirates landing at the tarmac at Dubai's International Airport
Credit: GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images

After Airbus announced that it would stop producing the world’s largest plane if Emirates did not place an order, the airline swooped in with a lifeline.

Speaking to reporters earlier this week, Airbus’s sale director, Jim Leahy, said: “If we can’t work out a deal with Emirates there is no choice but to shut down the program.”

On Thursday, the two companies announced that Emirates signed a memorandum of understanding to buy up to 36 more A380 aircraft. The airline will purchase 20 A380s, with deliveries starting in 2020, and has the option to add on 16 more.

“We’ve made no secret of the fact that the A380 has been a success for Emirates,” Sheikh Ahmed, the CEO of Emirates, said at the signing. “Our customers love it, and we’ve been able to deploy it on different missions across our network, giving us flexibility in terms of range and passenger mix.”

The airline said that it will use some of its new A380s as fleet replacements. The oldest among the fleet is 10 years old. Emirates received its first A380 in 2008 and added its 100th to the fleet in November. Emirates currently owns more than half of all A380 aircraft that Airbus has produced.

While Emirates may love the jumbo aircraft, other airlines do not. Its size limits the airports to which it can fly and the large cost of fuel operations makes it an expensive aircraft to maintain.

According to Airbus, the Emirates deal will keep the A380 in production for “at least another 10 years.” But it will take more airlines to maintain production beyond that.