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Southwest Airlines Chairman and CEO Gary Kelly to Transition to Executive Chairman in February 2022

Today, Southwest Airlines announced that the airline’s long-time Chairman and CEO, Gary Kelly, will transition to Executive Chairman next February. He will be succeeded by Southwest’s EVP Corporate Services, Robert Jordan, on February 1, 2022.


Southwest Airlines' Chairman and CEO, Gary Kelly, to Transition to Executive Chairman in February 2022 - Courtesy Southwest Airlines

On Wednesday (June 23, 2021), Southwest Airlines announced that that airline’s well-regarded Chairman and CEO, Gary Kelly will transition to Executive Chairman from February 2022, with plans to serve in that role until at least 2026, at the Board’s discretion. Mr. Kelly will be succeeded as CEO by Southwest Airlines’ Executive Vice President – Corporate Services, Robert Jordan on February 1, 2022, at which time Mr. Jordan will also join the airlines’ Board of Directors.


In Wednesday’s announcement, Southwest Airlines’ Chairman and CEO, Gary Kelly, said,


“On behalf of the Southwest Airlines Board of Directors, I am delighted to announce Bob Jordan as CEO. Bob and I have worked side by side for more than 30 years. He is a gifted and experienced executive and well-prepared to take on this important role. Working closely with President Tom Nealon and Chief Operating Officer Mike Van de Ven, we will begin developing transition plans in the coming weeks and months. These three top-notch Leaders make for a powerful team to lead us forward.”


Gary Kelly (66) has served as the airline’s CEO since 2004, leading the company through some of the industry’s most turbulent periods. Mr. Kelly began his career with Southwest Airline 35 years ago as Controller, moving up to Chief Financial Officer, Vice President of Finance and Executive Vice President and CFO, before being promoted in July 2004 to Vice Chairman and CEO. In 2008, Mr. Kelly assumed the roles of Chairman and President, relinquishing the role of President to former Southwest Board Member and Executive, Tom Nealon, in January 2017. Prior to joining Southwest in 1986, Gary Kelly was a CPA for Arthur Young & Company in Dallas and Controller for Systems Center, Inc.


As the airline’s CEO, Gary Kelly guided the airline’s transformation through several major initiatives including the acquisition of AirTran Airways, the repeal of the Wright Amendment, the launch of international and Hawaii service, the installation of a new reservation system, the introduction of a new frequent flyer program, the debut of the new Heart brand and livery, and the introduction of the Boeing 737-8 MAX to the carrier’s fleet.


Commenting on the leadership transition, Southwest’s Lead Board Director, William Cunningham, said,


“The airline has a strong Leadership team, and the Board has always taken seriously its role to oversee a strong succession plan for the top Leadership roles. Gary has been an outstanding CEO for Southwest for nearly two decades and has developed an excellent group of Senior Leaders to shepherd the airline into its next 50 years. We are thrilled he is willing to continue to serve as the Board's Executive Chairman, subject to the annual elections process. Bob inherits a solid strategy and great momentum to continue the airline's recovery as the COVID pandemic wanes. Bob has the Board's full support.”


Southwest Airlines' Executive Vice President Corporate Services, Robert Jordan, Will Become the Airline's New CEO Effective February 1, 2022.

Incoming Southwest CEO Robert Jordan (60) joined Southwest in 1988 and has served in roles including Director of Revenue Accounting, Corporate Controller, Vice President Procurement, Vice President Technology, SVP Enterprise Spend Management, EVP Strategy & Technology, EVP and Chief Commercial Officer, AirTran President and Executive Vice President Corporate Services. Most recently, Mr. Jordan led the efforts for Southwest’s voluntary leave and early separation programs, which were key in reducing labor expenses, while avoiding layoffs and furloughs.


In today’s announcement, incoming Southwest CEO, Robert Jordan, said,


“I'm humbled, honored, and excited to be asked to serve as the next CEO. The Heart of Southwest is our People; they make the difference for our Customers, and I look forward to serving them. We have a terrific team of Leaders, many of whom I have had the joy of working alongside for decades. I'm looking forward to working with Gary, Mike and Tom on the transition effort and setting up Southwest for the next 50 years of giving Customers the Freedom to Fly.”


Before joining Southwest in 1988, Robert Jordan worked for Hewlett-Packard as a programmer and financial analyst. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Texas A&M University. In 2013, he joined the Container Store’s Board of Directors and currently serves as the Lead Director. Mr. Jordan and his wife Kelly live in Flower Mound, Texas and have two adult children and two grandchildren.



Source: Southwest Airlines

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