Gary C. Kelly

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Gary C. Kelly
20170113 Gary Kelly.jpg
Kelly at the 2016 Tony Jannus Award Banquet
Gary Clayton Kelly

(1955-03-12) March 12, 1955 (age 64)
EducationUniversity of Texas at Austin
OccupationBusiness executive
TitleChairman and CEO, Southwest Airlines

Gary Clayton Kelly (born March 12, 1955) is an American business executive. He is the chief executive officer and chairman at Southwest Airlines.

Personal life[edit]

Kelly was born in San Antonio on March 12, 1955.[1] Kelly received a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a Certified Public Accountant.[2]

Kelly first met his wife Carol in eighth grade. They married in 1976. Together, they have two daughters.[1]


Prior to his work at Southwest, Kelly worked as an Audit Manager for Arthur Young & Co. and a Controller for Sterling Software.[2]

Kelly first joined Southwest Airlines in 1986 as Controller. In 1989, Kelly was promoted to Chief Financial Officer and Vice President of Finance.[3] In 2001, he was promoted to Executive Vice President. Kelly spent 3 years in this role until he was promoted to his current position as CEO and vice chairman in 2004[4] replacing James Parker who succeeded Herb Kelleher in 2001.

Kelly was named Chairman of the Board of Directors of Southwest Airlines on May 21, 2008, replacing co-founder Herb Kelleher.[5] Gary Kelly also became president of Southwest Airlines the same year, replacing Colleen Barrett when her contract expired on July 15, 2008.[6]

As CEO, Kelly has guided the airline to become the largest carrier of domestic passengers in the United States.[7][8] He has led the company through a number of transformative, large-scale initiatives including the revamp of the airline’s Rapid Rewards program,[9] the introduction of the Boeing 737-800[10] and 737 MAX[11] aircraft to Southwest’s fleet, the acquisition of AirTran Airways,[12] the launching of Southwest's first international service,[8][12] an update to the airline’s branding,[13] the adoption of the Amadeus reservation system,[14] and large expansion projects at the company’s corporate headquarters in Dallas.[15]

On January 10, 2017, Kelly announced changes to the Company's executive Leadership ranks with Thomas M. Nealon named as President and Michael G. Van de Ven named as the airline's Chief Operating Officer. These changes were effective immediately. Kelly retained the title of Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.[16]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Kelly was named one of the best CEOs in America for 2008, 2009 and 2010 by Institutional Investor magazine and serves on the President's Council of Jobs and Competitiveness.[17]

In 2014, Kelly received the Advertising Innovation and Marketing Excellence (AIME) Award.[7]

Kelly was the 2016 recipient of the Tony Jannus Award for distinguished achievement in commercial air transportation.[18]

In 2017, Fortune named Kelly the #3 most underrated CEO in America (after Satya Nadella and Jeff Bezos) based on a survey of Fortune 500 CEOs asking them which of their fellow CEOs do not get enough credit. Kelly received 85 votes.[19]


  1. ^ a b "Southwest Airlines CEO is defining himself as a leader — without bag fees". Dallas News. April 19, 2010.
  2. ^ a b "Biography: Gary C. Kelly". CEO Exchange. June 5, 2007.
  3. ^ "Southwest Airlines' CEO Gary C. Kelly Sets the Carrier's New Course". D Magazine. Retrieved 2019-10-03.
  4. ^ "CEO of the Year (Again!): Gary Kelly of Southwest Airlines". D Magazine. Retrieved 2019-10-03.
  5. ^ "Gary Kelly". The White House. Retrieved 2019-10-03.
  6. ^ ATW Plus (21 May 2008). "Southwest, AirTran CEOs become chairmen". Air Transport World. Retrieved 4 January 2019.
  7. ^ a b "Southwest Airlines racks up another award thanks to CEO Gary Kelly". Dallas Culturemap. July 12, 2014.
  8. ^ a b "Southwest CEO sees BWI as international gateway". The Baltimore Sun. February 20, 2015.
  9. ^ "Rapid Rewards revamp is just one of Southwest Airlines' big changes". Los Angeles Times. February 26, 2011.
  10. ^ "Southwest to buy larger jets". The Spokesman-Review. December 16, 2010.
  11. ^ "Southwest receives first delivery of Boeing 737 MAX". Yahoo! Finance. August 30, 2017.
  12. ^ a b "Southwest Airlines Acquires AirTran". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. September 27, 2010.
  13. ^ "Now middle-aged, Southwest Airlines will change the paint job on it airplanes". The Blade. September 8, 2014.
  14. ^ "Southwest Airlines turns on new reservations system". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. May 9, 2017.
  15. ^ "See Southwest Airlines' new $250 million addition to fast-growing Love Field campus". Dallas News. April 3, 2018.
  16. ^ "Southwest Airlines Announces Executive Promotions". Southwest Airlines Newsroom. Retrieved 2018-05-02.
  17. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-02-22. Retrieved 2014-12-20.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  18. ^ "Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly named Tony Jannus Award winner". Tampa Bay Times. May 20, 2016.
  19. ^ "These Are the Most Over and Underrated CEOs". Fortune. February 16, 2017.

External links[edit]