Herb D Kelleher was born on 12th March 1931 and became a millionaire by co-foundering and working as the chairman and CEO of the company Southwest Airlines. He was born in Haddon Heights in New Jersey and went to Haddon Heights High School. He got a bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University and achieved a Juris Doctor from New York University.
Kelleher and his wife Joan Negley moved to Texas with the aim of setting up a law firm or a business. Southwest Airlines was set up in 1971, and it is said that along with the Texas businessman Rollin King who was one of his business clients, Kelleher came up with the idea for the company on a cocktail napkin in a restaurant. The idea of the company was to serve three cities in Texas: Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. The company is now based in Love Field in Dallas, Texas. Southwest became so successful because it was different from other similar businesses and because of this it faced many legal challenges from its competitors. Southwest was so successful at the time because it could offer its clients lower fares because it did not use the “hub and spoke” scheduling system that other airlines used. Instead it used lots of short fast flights into secondary airports of major markets which cost less and are most efficient. Furthermore the company only used one type of aeroplane- the Boeing 737. In 2007 it was the biggest airline on the globe according to amount of passengers carried per year, and was the 6th biggest airline by revenue. It has around 3500 flights in operation every day.
It was important to Kelleher that his workers took their job seriously- there has never been a death on any of their flights; however he liked his workers to enjoy themselves. There are often stories of his workers singing in the in-flight announcements. Kelleher’s colourful personality has led to the company being listed many times as one of the top five Most Admired Corporations in America in the annual poll of the magazine Fortune. He has also been named as the best CEO in the United States by Fortune.
On 21st May 2008 he stepped down as the chairman of Southwest Airlines however it has been said that he will remain there for another four years as a full time employee. Gary C. Kelly is now the Chairman of the Board of Directors and was the company’s former CEO.
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