Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly to step down

Gary Kelly, the long-time CEO of Southwest Airlines, is stepping down as chief executive, the company announced on Wednesday.

He's handing over the day-to-day reins to company insider Robert Jordan beginning in February.

Kelly, now 66 years old, won't be far. He's staying on as executive chairman of the board.

Southwest has done quite well under Kelly's long leadership.

He spearheaded several initiatives, including the acquisition of AirTran Airways, the launch of international destinations for the first time in Southwest's history, and the introduction of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 into the airline's fleet. Kelly has stuck by the plane even after two deadly crashes at other airlines.

Last year, he agreed to take a 10 percent pay cut in order to help prevent the first round of layoffs in Southwest's 50-year history as the airline hemorrhaged during the health crisis. He was part of the group of airlines CEOs who went to the Trump White House to solicit the first $50 billion round of government aid.

Lately, he's been overseeing the air carrier's recovery.

Southwest investors have benefitted under his watch. The stock has more than tripled in value during Kelly's tenure.

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