Southwest CEO Gary Kelly to step down

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Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly, 66, will step down from his position and “transition roles” to become executive chairman, the company announced Wednesday.

Robert Jordan, Southwest’s executive vice president for corporate services will become the next CEO, starting Feb. 1 next year. He joined the airline in 1988 and served several key roles.

“Bob and I have worked side by side for more than 30 years,” Kelly said in a press release. “He is a gifted and experienced executive and well prepared to take on this important role.”

Kelly has served as Southwest CEO since 2004, overseeing the airline’s first international routes, the acquisition of AirTran Airways and bringing the Boeing 737 Max into its fleet.

In the airline’s 50-year history, it has never had a single layoff or furlough — even during the coronavirus pandemic. Most recently, incoming CEO Jordan was in charge of the company’s voluntary leave and early separation programs, which were “instrumental in avoiding layoffs and furlough actions,” the company said on Wednesday.

“I’m humbled, honored, and excited to be asked to serve as the next CEO,” Jordan said. “The Heart of Southwest is our People; they make the difference for our Customers, and I look forward to serving them.”

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