Herb Kelleher, the co-founder, former CEO, and chairman emeritus of Southwest Airlines died on Thursday, January 3 at age 87. I don’t have many heroes in the business world, but Mr. Kelleher was one of them. Thank you Herb. Rest well.
We have a strategic plan. It’s called doing things.
— Herb Kelleher / Southwest Airlines
Herb Kelleher, Whose Southwest Airlines Reshaped the Industry, Dies at 87
Herb Kelleher, who turned conventional airline industry wisdom on its head by combining low fares with high standards of customer service to build Southwest Airlines into one of the nation’s most successful and admired companies, died on Thursday. He was 87.
The airline announced his death on Twitter. It did not say where he died or give a cause. Southwest is based in Dallas, and Mr. Kelleher had a home there.
Under the fun-loving, chain-smoking, hard-drinking, New Jersey-born Mr. Kelleher, Southwest, which began in 1971 as a low-fare intrastate carrier serving three Texas cities — Houston, Dallas and San Antonio — grew into the behemoth that today carries more than 120 million passengers a year, making it the nation’s most popular domestic airline.
Southwest employs more than 58,000 people and has been profitable every year since two years after it was founded. During Mr. Kelleher’s tenure, the company never had a layoff, furlough or pay cut, despite being among the most unionized airlines in the world …
- The New York Times
- Main photograph Copyright © 2001 Michael O’Neill — Corbis/Getty Images