Southwest Airlines Chairman and CEO Gary Kelly will be stepping down from his position next year. Kelly will be succeeded by company veteran Robert Jordan.
Kelly has led the Dallas-based airline through several challenges, ranging from the financial crisis of 2008 to the more recent grounding of the Boeing 737 Max planes. He was appointed as the chief executive in 2004.
Kelly’s successor Jordan has been serving in the company since 1988. Over the years, Jordan has overseen a series of buyouts, including the 2011 acquisition of the company’s rival AirTran, Southwest’s frequent flyer program and other programs that have helped cut labor costs, CNBC reported. He currently serves as the company’s executive vice president of corporate services.
Jordan will be taking over the reins from Kelly on February 1, 2022. Kelly, meanwhile, will continue to serve as the executive chairman of the 50-year-old airline at least until 2026.
“Succession planning is one of the most important jobs of a CEO, and it’s something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about and working on with our Board of Directors for several years,” Kelly wrote in a note to Southwest employees.
“I’m not going anywhere, though,” he said. “My focus will be business and fleet strategies, governmental and airport affairs, and leading the Board of Directors.”
With consumers’ beginning to travel once again, the low-cost carrier is currently focusing on monetizing the increase in demand. The airline has been seeing its revenue improve over the last few months.