In a world where profit is king, it feels odd to see two airlines squabbling over a title that appears to carry no commercial advantage.

The carriers are Norwegian and Southwest Airlines of the USA – both of which are vying to be recognised as launch customer for the Boeing 737 Max.

Southwest placed the first order for the re-engined twinjet, but Norwegian may receive the initial aircraft. In addition, the European carrier – which is riding the crest of a growth wave – is likely to be the first to launch revenue services with the type.

However, argues Southwest, it should be considered as the launch customer regardless, thanks to its deep involvement in shaping the programme.

But does the cigarette-paper-thin distinction between launch customer and launch operator matter?

From a bottom-line perspective, almost certainly not. All Southwest should care about is the fuel saving from replacing its fleet of ancient 737 Classics. And for Norwegian, the launch of new transatlantic services is the goal.

In 20 years, it is unlikely that anyone will care about the current wrangling, but it seems important now, somehow. Maybe it is just a human desire to hark back to the pioneering days of early aviation, or simply that in a market where differentiation is vital, bragging rights are a good way of setting your business apart.

Source: Flight International