Herbert (Herb) D Kelleher, founder of the US low-cost carrier Southwest Airlines, has passed away at the age of 87.
Kelleher established Southwest Airlines in 1967 with the intention of operating low-cost flights between the cities of Houston, Dallas and San Antonio in Texas. However, he was forced to fight a legal battle when competitor carriers tried to stop his aircraft from operating. The airline was finally able to begin flying in 1971 after the Supreme Court of Texas ruled in Kelleher’s favour.
Southwest Airlines is now the world’s largest low-cost carrier, operating more than 4,000 flights a day using 700 B737s, according to Business Insider.
Kelleher, who trained as a lawyer, said his goal in setting up Southwest Airlines was to disrupt commercial aviation. It was one of the first carriers to offer single-class cabins, cheap tickets and no seat reservations – practices that have since become commonplace in the industry.
In a statement, Southwest Airlines called Kelleher “a pioneer, a maverick and an innovator”.
CEO Gary Kelly said of Kelleher: “Herb was a lifelong mentor and friend, and one of the greatest joys of my life has been working alongside Herb for over 30 years. His stamp on the airline industry and all those he touched has been profound. His vision for making air travel affordable for all revolutionised the industry, and you can still see that transformation taking place today. But his legacy extends far beyond our industry and far beyond the world of entrepreneurship. He inspired people; he motivated people; he challenged people – and he kept us laughing all the way. He was an exceptionally gifted man with an enormous heart and love for people – all people. We have been beyond blessed to have him as a part of our lives.”