The European plane maker Airbus has dropped a heavy hint that it may end its A380 superjumbo program.
“Airbus confirms it is in discussions with Emirates Airline in relation to its A380 contract,” the manufacturer said in a short statement to the stock exchange Thursday.
“Commercial discussions with customers remain confidential,” Airbus added.
In January 2018, the Middle East airline threw the A380 a lifeline by agreeing to buy up to 36 more planes. At the time, then sales chief for Airbus, John Leahy, admitted that if no deal was possible then there would be “no choice but to shut down the program.”
Fast forward to the beginning of 2019 and Airbus’s order backlog for the A380 stands at 87 aircraft, with 53 of those lined up for Emirates alone. Many of that total are only considered tentative orders.
Emirates’ latest A380 order is also shrouded in doubt due to incomplete negotiations with U.K. engineer Rolls-Royce over the production of more engines.
In a note released Thursday, Sandy Morris, an aviation equity analyst at Jefferies, said Airbus’s statement to the market looked “ominous” for the world’s largest commercial airliner.
“If a significant portion of the Emirates order is canceled, we believe the A380 program must end,” he added.