Airbus is preparing to steal a march against rival Boeing with the launch of a new long-range aircraft that could pre-empt the US company's plans for a similar plane.

The European aircraft maker has been courting potential airline customers about a longer-range version of its single-aisle A321 jet and could launch the model on its home territory at next week's Paris Air Show — the industry's showcase event where the world's two biggest jet manufacturers like to trump each other in a public battle of orders.

Potential airline customers, including IAG, the owner of Aer Lingus and British Airways, have

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