Southwest CEO Gary Kelly is not giving up the title just because upstart Norwegian Airlines will actually get its first new 737-8 two months before Southwest. Norwegian, a low-cost carrier that plans to use the new planes to fly transatlantic routes between smaller U.S. and European airports, is scheduled to receive its first new plane in May, while Southwest will wait for its first plane to arrive in July.
Kelley told Bloomberg News, "We're the launch customer, regardless of when we take the first delivery."
Being a launch customer may seem like a big "who cares" to anyone outside the industry, but it's more than just bragging rights, according to Southwest Chief Operating Officer Mike Van De Ven:
We're the ones that have done the service-ready operational validation for Boeing. We're the ones working very closely with Boeing to make sure it's operating as everyone intended.
Boeing, intelligently, has not tried (so far) to adjudicate the matter, although the company's website lists Southwest as the launch customer for the smaller 737-7. Norwegian has ordered 108 of the new 737-8s and expects to receive six this year. Southwest has ordered 200 of the planes, but the airline must retire some of its 737-300s before it can begin taking delivery of the new planes.
Norwegian is scheduled to make the first flights of its new 737-8s in June, while Southwest is not scheduled to begin flights until October.
Southwest is Boeing's largest customer with more than 225 737s in the company's backlog.
(Paul Ausick - 24/7 Wall St / Yahoo Business News)