How Herbert Kelleher Became an Airline Owner

Herbert Kelleher was an American lawyer and entrepreneur. Born on March 12 in the year 1931, in New Jersey, USA, he co-founded of Southwest Airlines, the world’s largest low-budget carrier.

Herbert Kelleher
Herbert Kelleher (Photo Credit:

Herbert Kelleher was the son of a general manager of a food company. He obtained his bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University and his law degree from New York University. After graduation, he served as one of the staff members of a Supreme Court justice. After two years, he left to join a New York-based law firm. One of the firm’s clients named Rollin King became a friend and later, a business partner when one night, while drinking together, they hatched reportedly on a napkin their business plan for an airline.

In 1967, Herbert and Rollin incorporated Air Southwest as an intrastate airplane within Texas. However, existing airlines in Texas filed suits to stop the new startup from operating. Herbert worked hard to defeat the opposition. In 1971, the company was given the green light to start flying. It renamed itself Southwest Airlines and the inaugural flight proceeded as planned. Offering the lowest airfare, the airline became the choice airline of most American travelers. They recruited only the best employees and gave them enough freedom to decide on what is best to accomplish their assigned task. Additionally, it used only one type of aircraft which made operation and repair easier and less-costly. The result was remarkable: it generated profit year in and year out.

Herbert had four children with wife Joan. He passed away on January 3, 2019 in Dallas at the age of 87. Previously, he diagnosed with prostate cancer and underwent radiation therapy. At the time of his death, his net worth was estimated at $2.5 Billion.


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