A Timeline of Southwest Airlines at a Glance
A timeline of key dates in
1971 -- Southwest begins flying between Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. The idea for the airline was hatched over drinks by San Antonio lawyer Herb Kelleher and one of his clients, Rollin King, who ran a small charter service in Texas.
1972 -- Southwest was forced to sell one of its four planes to meet payroll. Employees made up for the lost jet by turning planes around and starting the next flight in 10 minutes. In a 2008 interview, Kelleher called this the airline's most challenging time.
1973 -- Southwest makes money, starting a string of 36 straight profitable years.
1978 -- Herb Kelleher becomes interim CEO for several months, and gets the job full-time in 1981.
1979 -- Southwest begins service in New Orleans. Until Congress deregulated the airline industry (in 1978), Southwest couldn't fly beyond Texas.
1982 -- Expands service to California.
1985 -- Begins service at Chicago's Midway Airport. Acquires a competitor, Muse Air.
1989 -- Annual revenue passes $1 billion.
1993 -- Expands to the East Coast with service at Baltimore-
1996 -- Expands to Florida.
1999 -- Begins service at Long Island MacArthur Airport but avoids more congested New York City airports.
2001 -- Kelleher steps down as CEO, replaced by general counsel James Parker, but remains chairman. Kelleher's former legal assistant, Colleen Barrett, is named president.
2002 -- Begins phasing out plastic reusable boarding passes. New rules after the 2001 terror attacks required boarding passes with passenger's name.
2004 -- Gary Kelly replaces Parker, who became entangled in difficult labor negotiations with the flight attendants' union.
2005 -- Begins selling travel to Hawaii and other places aboard partner ATA Airlines.
2006 -- Congress votes to repeal a law in 2014 that prevents Southwest from operating long flights from its home base at Dallas Love Field.
2008 -- The Federal Aviation Administration proposes a $10.2 million civil penalty against Southwest for using planes that hadn't been inspected for fuselage cracks. Several planes were later found to have cracks. After negotiations, the penalty is reduced to $7.5 million. At the annual shareholder meeting, Kelleher steps down as chairman.
2009 -- Southwest launches service in Minneapolis and announces plans to expand to New York's LaGuardia Airport, Boston's Logan Airport, and Milwaukee.