DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — Southwest Airlines announced that longtime CEO Gary Kelly is stepping down in February and will be succeeded by another veteran at the Dallas-based carrier.

The new CEO will be Robert Jordan, the executive vice president of corporate services. Southwest said Kelly, 66, plans to remain executive chairman at least through 2026.

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Gary Kelly, chairman and chief executive officer of Southwest Airlines Co., speaks during the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting on May 15, 2019. (credit: Michael Ciaglo/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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Kelly moved up through the airline ranks through several financial jobs, including a stint as chief financial officer. He became CEO in 2004, replacing Jim Parker, who held the job briefly after co-founder Herb Kelleher stepped aside.

He has led the nation’s fourth-largest airline through some of the airline industry’s most turbulent times including, the acquisition of AirTran Airways, the repeal of the Wright Amendment in Dallas, the launch of international destinations, and the introduction of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 into the airline’s fleet.

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(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

CBSDFW.com Staff