Emirates’ late-December decision to defer deliveries of 12 Airbus A380s was widely discussed in the industry as another sign of the slow demise of Airbus’s highest-profile aircraft program. While that interpretation may eventually prove true, the agreement—though initially painful—is also a tool that gives Airbus more time to increase its orderbook. With 142 firm orders and 90 in-service aircraft, Emirates is by far the A380’s biggest customer, with purchases ...

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