Southwest Airlines cofounder Herb Kelleher died on Thursday at the age of 87. The Dallas-based airline confirmed Kelleher’s death to Business Insider via email.
In a statement, Southwest Airlines said:
“We are deeply saddened to share that Southwest Airlines Founder and Chairman Emeritus Herbert D. Kelleher passed away today at the age of 87.
“Herb was a pioneer, a maverick, and an innovator. His vision revolutionized commercial aviation and democratized the skies. Herb’s passion, zest for life, and insatiable investment in relationships made lasting and immeasurable impressions on all who knew him and will forever be the bedrock and esprit de corps of Southwest Airlines.
“The entire Southwest Family extends our deepest sympathies to Herb’s wife, Joan, and his entire family.”
Kelleher, along with business partner Rollin King, founded Southwest Airlines in 1967. The low-cost airline commenced service in 1971 with three Boeing 737s serving the Texas cities of Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio.
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Kelleher served as Southwest’s president and CEO from 1978 to 2001. The charismatic former lawyer served as the airline’s chairman until 2008.
In the years since its founding, Southwest Airlines has developed into the world’s largest low-cost airline with a fleet of more than 700 Boeing 737 jets, operating 4,000 flights a day.
Southwest is also renowned if its industry-leading customer service and friendly demeanor. The airline is also one of the most profitable airlines in the world with 46 consecutive years of profitability. It’s one of the only major airlines in the US to have never filed for bankruptcy.
Kelleher is a graduate of Wesleyan University and the New York University Law School.