Issue Overview

Kelly Hands Over LUV’s Reins

Kelly Hands Over LUV’s Reins

June 28th, 2021 at 12:31 AM EDT
25 min read

Issue Overview

It’s the end of Southwest’s Kelly era, as CEO Gary Kelly gets set to pass the torch to Robert Jordan, the carrier’s current executive vice president of corporate services. Kelly, of course, took the mantle shortly after Southwest’s legendary founder, Herb Kelleher. Never as flamboyant as Kelleher (no one can imagine the taciturn Kelly challenging Doug Parker to a Wild Turkey-fueled arm-wrestling competition, for example), Kelly nonetheless guided the airline through a radical transformation, from scrappy discounter to one the country’s largest carriers by passenger volume.  It hasn’t always been smooth sailing: Kelly and labor often clashed. But Kelly leaves a bigger and different airline than the one he took over, and he presided over the acquisition of AirTran Airways and guided the airline through the repeal of the restrictive Wright Amendment. And Southwest still has not laid off a single employee in its 50 years (with thanks to the federal government this year and last).

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