7 JANUARY 2019
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Tributes poured in last week for Herb Kelleher, co-founder of the pioneering low-cost carrier Southwest Airlines, who died on Thursday at 87. He was said to have built Southwest into “an industry powerhouse stamped with his own colourful, unconventional personality.”
Kelleher set up Southwest more than 50 years ago with fellow pioneer Rollin King, who died in 2014 at 83. The airline made its first flight in June 1971 and grew quickly from a regional carrier into one of the biggest carriers in the US.
Southwest flew short point to point flights rather than adopting the hub-and-spoke model of its bigger rivals, and used a single model of aircraft, the Boeing B737, which it said cut operational complexity and cost.
Among last week’s tributes, Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary took to Twitter to describe Kelleher as the “Grand Master Yoda of low fares airlines”, addng: “He was the leader, the visionary and the teacher: without Herb there would be no Ryanair and no low fares airlines anywhere.”
Kelleher was said to have won the affection of customers and staff with low fares, good wages and his own high spirits, seeking to instil a sense of fun among employees and sometimes showing up in costume or helping to unload baggage.
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franco mancassola, honolulu
A true visionary, a man with incredible determination and skills, an exceptional leader. The airline industry has lost one of its giants. I had the pleasure of knowing him and to learn a great deal from him. RIP Herb!