Gary Kelly serves as the Chairman of the Board, President, and Chief Executive Officer at Southwest Airlines. Under Gary’s leadership, Southwest has grown to become the nation’s largest airline in terms of originating domestic passengers carried and is a mainstay on Fortune magazine’s list of the most admired companies in the world, ranking seventh in 2015.
Gary is a 30-year Southwest veteran who began his career at Southwest Airlines as Controller, moving up to Chief Financial Officer and Vice President Finance, then Executive Vice President and CFO, before being promoted to CEO and Vice Chairman in July 2004. Gary assumed the roles of Chairman and President in 2008. Prior to joining Southwest Airlines in 1986, Gary was a CPA for Arthur Young & Company in Dallas and Controller for Systems Center, Inc.
Southwest Airlines is celebrating 43 years of consecutive profitability and was named “Airline of the Year” by Air Transport World in 2015 and named one of the Top 20 America’s Best Employers of 2015 by Forbes. The nation’s leading low-cost carrier has consistently received the lowest ratio of Customer Complaints to the Department of Transportation (DOT) since they began tracking Customer Satisfaction.
Gary’s biggest source of pride is the fact that Southwest Airlines has never had a single layoff in the airline’s 45-year history. Gary has pioneered the airline’s transformation through several key initiatives, including the acquisition of AirTran Airways, the repeal of the Wright Amendment, and the launch of international destinations for the first time in Southwest’s history—all while staying true to the Company’s core values and People-centric Culture.
Gary has received numerous awards and recognitions over the years, including being named to Fortune magazine’s list of the Top 20 People in Business in 2014. Gary was twice named D CEO Magazine’s CEO of the Year; Gary has been named one of the best CEOs in America by Institutional Investor magazine three times; and Gary was selected as Dallas Business Journal’s CEO of the year for 2011. In 2010, Gary was honored with the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Texas at Austin, and in 2013, Gary was inducted into the McCombs School of Business Hall of Fame at the University of Texas at Austin. Gary received the 2013 Father of the Year Award; and Gary was the recipient of the 2013 McLane Leadership in Business Award at Texas A&M University.
Gary is a lifelong Texan and received a B.B.A. in Accounting from the University of Texas at Austin. As a proud alumnus, Gary has served the University in a number of capacities, including on the McCombs School Advisory Council. Gary is a Certified Public Accountant and serves on the Board of Directors of the Lincoln National Corporation and Airlines for America, the airline industry advocacy group (serving as Chairman from 2012 – 2014). Gary previously served on the President’s Job Council.