Southwest Airlines founder Herb Kelleher, industry pioneer has died

Southwest Airlines CEO Herb Kelleher speaks to the stockholders at company headquarters in Dallas. Kelleher will step down as CEO, with Gary Kelly being named the new chairman, and CEO.The board of directors name Kelleher Chairman Emeritus. (Photo by

Herb Kelleher, Founder and Chairman Emeritus of discount carrier Southwest Airlines, has died at the age of 87.

"We already miss you, Herbie" the company tweeted in a heartfelt remembrance late Thursday with the hashtag HonoringHerb.

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"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" the company said in a statement.

The company also included a special page on The Southwest Airlines Community to honor their Founder and Friend.

Kelleher is considered an industry pioneer helping create and promote discount travel in the United States. Most notably Kelleher was known for his sense of humor and colorful personality which became a thread of the airline's corporate culture.