Remembering Herb Kelleher The co-founder and former CEO of Southwest Airlines, Herb Kelleher, has died. He was 87. We are grateful Herb shared his story with us in 2016. We are republishing it as a tribute to his life and career, in which he transformed the US airline industry. More than 50 years ago, competitors sued to keep Herb Kelleher's new airline grounded. After a 3-year court fight, the first plane took off from Dallas. Today Southwest Airlines is the country's largest domestic airline.