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Airbus delivered more jets in 2017 than ever in its history, yet still finished second behind Boeing's tally, data released late Sunday by the European aircraft manufacturer shows.

In a webcast today, John Leahy, the company's sales chief, said: "If we can't work out a deal with Emirates I think there is no choice but to shut down the programme".

The minimum number it said it would build in a year is six.

It's no secret that the Airbus A380 has been on life support for some time with Airbus cutting production but Airbus has now admitted that if it doesn't get a new order from Emirates it will have to kill the A380 project.

Airbus sees "great potential" for the Middle East aviation market in 2018, Mr Leahy told reporters.

Emirates declined to issue an immediate comment.

"They are probably the only one who has the ability right now", Leahy said.

Emirates test landed an Airbus 380 at O'Hare Airport's newest gate in July 2016. The airline was expected to sign a preliminary order at the Dubai Air Show in November for as many as 36 A380s, but the deal never materialised.

The A380 has a list price of $437 million (€535 million), and as of December it had booked 317 orders for the plane.

Instead, Airbus employees found themselves attending a news conference at which Emirates announced the purchase of 40 Boeing 787-10 Dreamliners in a $15.1 billion deal.

At the moment Airbus says it plans to make just eight a year, the minimum to ensuring production of the airliner breaks even.

Leahy said he believed the A380 would come back into fashion as air traffic was doubling every 15 years and bigger planes would be needed to satisfy demand.

The planemaker, based in Toulouse, France, also reported that it delivered 718 planes in 2017, fewer than Boeing's 763 but still a record for Airbus.

Bregier said Airbus will speed up production in the coming year, notably of its long-delayed widebody A350, and hopes to out-deliver Boeing by 2020.

Bregier, who's being replaced next month by Guillaume Faury as Airbus overhauls its top management, acknowledged "challenges" lie ahead but called them "manageable".