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Southwest Air Taps EVP Jordan to Succeed Kelly as Chief Executive

Southwest Airlines says a company veteran, EVP Robert Jordan, on Feb. 1 will succeed Gary Kelly as CEO. Kelly will become executive chairman.

Southwest Airlines  (LUV) - Get Report said Wednesday that Executive Vice President Robert Jordan would succeed Chairman and Chief Executive Gary Kelly on Feb. 1, as the air carrier emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown.

At last check shares of the Dallas carrier were down 1.1% at $55.13. They're up 18% year-to-date.

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Kelly, 66, who has been CEO since 2004, will become executive chairman. 

"Bob and I have worked side by side for more than 30 years," Kelly said in a statement. He called Jordan "well-prepared to take on this important role."

Jordan, 60, joined the airline in 1988 and has held such positions as director of revenue accounting, corporate controller, and vice president of procurement.

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The airline said he has led such projects as the acquisition of AirTran Airways, the development of the company's e-commerce platform, the Rapid Rewards loyalty program and the enhanced boarding process.

Jordan also led the company's voluntary leave and early separation programs, which Southwest said were key to reducing labor costs during the pandemic and instrumental in avoiding layoffs and furloughs.

Kelly is a 35-year Southwest veteran who started with the air carrier as controller. He moved up to chief financial officer and vice president of finance, then executive vice president and CFO. He was named Vice Chairman and CEO in July 2004.

Kelly's biggest source of pride is the fact that Southwest Airlines "has never had a single layoff or furlough in the airline's 50-year history," the airline said.

In April, Southwest posted a narrower-than-expected adjusted loss for the first quarter.

Last month, Southwest projected a revenue slide of 35% to 40% for May, unchanged from the previous forecast, and a load factor of 85%, besting the prior prediction of 75% to 80%.

The airline recently said it would convert nearly three dozen options for Boeing's  (BA) - Get Report 737 MAX aircraft into firm orders. Travel demand has improved as the coronavirus pandemic has eased.