European aircraft manufacturer Airbus has said it will stop making its A380 “superjumbo”, the world’s largest passenger aircraft.

In a statement, the firm said it would make its last deliveries of the aircraft in 2021.

The decision comes after Emirates, the largest customer of the A380, reduced its order.

The costly aircraft has struggled to compete with more efficient, smaller models.

“As a result of this decision we have no substantial A380 backlog and hence no basis to sustain production, despite all our sales efforts with other airlines in recent years. This leads to the end of A380 deliveries in 2021.

“Passengers all over the world love to fly on this great aircraft. Hence today’s announcement is painful for us and the A380 communities worldwide,” said Airbus chief executive, Tom Enders.

The move will affect employees although the company did not specify which jobs or locations would be affected.

Airbus UK makes the wings for the A380, employing 6 000 staff at its main wings factory at Broughton in Wales, as well as 3 000 at Filton, near Bristol, where wings are designed and supported.

Greg Waldron, Asia managing editor of Flight Global, said the industry was shifting away from bigger models like the four-engine A380 in favour of smaller, wide-body jets.

“The very clear trend in the market is to operate long-haul aircraft with two engines like Boeing’s 787 and 777, and Airbus’s A330 and A350,” he said.

Airbus will deliver the last 14 A380s to Emirates over the next two years, and the Dubai-based carrier has ordered 70 smaller aircraft from the plane maker.