Aircraft manufacturer, Airbus, has unveiled the design for the Airbus321XLR, the world's longest-range single-aisle airliner.
Airbus introduced the XLR at the air show this week, while Boeing has put a decision on a middle-distance offering on the back burner as executives focus on returning the 737 Max to flight, after two fatal accidents and a worldwide grounding.
But analysts expect this year's show to be relatively subdued, with slowing economies, trade tensions and geopolitical uncertainties unsettling airlines - highlighted by a profit warning from Germany's Lufthansa late on Sunday.
"Air cargo is an important part of our overall business and the introduction of these new Boeing 777 Freighters will play an integral role in our long-term growth strategy", said China Airlines chairman Hsieh Su-Chien.
The deals are a big vote of confidence in the European planemaker, a day after major customer British Airways owner IAG signed a letter of intent to buy 200 of Boeing Co's 737 MAX jets, a model that has been grounded since March after two deadly crashes.
The shock announcement came midway through the exhibition and helped Boeing clear some of the gloom surrounding the 737 Max by instilling a measure of confidence in its future.
Neither American Airlines nor Airbus would disclose the financial terms of the deal, but American Airlines President Robert Isom says the XLR will initially cost the airline more than the A321neo.More news: Cyclone Vayu: Severe storm expected in Gujarat, govt deploys NDRF
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"It is a pivotal moment for all of us", he added.
If Tuesday's deal is converted into a firm order, it would be worth $24 billion according to list prices, but IAG said it had negotiated "a substantial discount".
This news comes during Paris Air Show week, in which Airbus Chief Commercial Officer Christian Scherer made headlines for saying the company had the technology to support pilotless planes.
Airlines will be able to use the enhanced range of the aircraft to operate a lower-cost single-aisle aircraft on longer and less heavily travelled routes - many of which can now only be served by larger and less efficient wide-body aircraft. "It's a time for us to make sure that accidents like this never happen again".
Senior Vice-President Ihssane Mounir dismissed the A321XLR as suitable for only a "sliver" of the market that Boeing hopes to win with its proposed all-new mid-market plane.
Airbus did not give a price for the A321XLR.