Southwest Airlines’ Gary Kelly to pass the reins to Robert Jordan

Garry C. Kelly

Southwest Airlines’ Chairman and CEO Gary Kelly has announced that he will transition roles in early 2022, becoming the carrier’s Executive Chairman with the desire to serve in that role through at least 2026 at the discretion of the Board of Directors. Executive Vice President Corporate Services Robert Jordan will become Kelly’s successor as CEO effective Feb. 1, 2022. Jordan also will join the Board at that time.

Serving as CEO since 2004, Kelly has led Southwest through some of the airline industry’s most turbulent times. Kelly is a 35-year Southwest veteran who began his career at Southwest Airlines as Controller, moving up to Chief Financial Officer and Vice President Finance, then Executive Vice President and CFO, before being promoted to CEO and Vice Chairman in July 2004. He assumed the roles of Chairman and President in 2008. In January 2017, Kelly relinquished the title of President and named former Southwest Board Member and Executive Tom Nealon to the executive team as President.

Kelly has often said his biggest source of pride is the fact that Southwest Airlines has never had a single layoff or furlough in the airline’s 50-year history. As CEO, he has guided the airline’s transformation through several major initiatives, including the acquisition of AirTran Airways, the repeal of the Wright Amendment, the launch of international destinations for the first time in Southwest’s history, the installment of a new reservation system, introduction of a new frequent-flyer program, debut of the new Heart brand and livery, initiation of the long-awaited service to Hawaii, and the introduction of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 into the airline’s fleet —all while staying true to the company’s core values and people-centric culture.

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