They call them the stories of Herb, zany meetings with the wacky Herb Kelleher, the co-founder of Southwest Airlines, who died Thursday at 87 years old.
The countless times he has lit a cigarette in public places, the "No Smoking" signs, including a crowded resort ballroom in Phoenix where he was awarded the Leader of the Year award in 2005.
The times he had to be found by other Southwestern leaders after too many shots of Wild Turkey, his choice well documented.
The time he joked in front of a journalist, he loved the tufted buttons of his lawyer's leather sofa because "it makes me shudder". Or the time that he was carrying a bag over his head a few years after his rival suggested to travelers: be embarrassed to fly unpretentious Southwest.
The favorite hero story of airline investor Bill Franke was held at a Wyoming ranch. It was around 2000 and the two were attending an annual meeting of the biggest industry honchos, meeting for the first time together. They were the least similar roommate, Mutt and Jeff, as they had just called.
Franke was the CEO of America West Airlines, a long-time competitor in the southwestern United States. Kelleher offered to pick him up at the tiny airport in Saratoga, Wyoming, but did not show up. An airport official told Franke that Kelleher had decided to go to town for a drink. Franke ended up paying $ 75 to the manager to drive him to the ranch.
When he entered the room, Franke found cigarette butts and clothes strewn about. He declared an imaginary dividing line in the middle of the room.
"I told him," Herb, "let's just have something quite clear here: if I find one of your objects beyond the center line of the room, I throw it into the fireplace." # 39; He said, "You would not do that." & # 39; & # 39;
"In the 15 years we were roommates (at the conference), he kept everything on his side of the room and he never smoked," Franke said.
He also did not let his friend Franke forget the reprimands. He called Nanny Nurse from that moment and dazzled him late at night when Kelleher returned to the room after Franke was asleep.
"He was gathering a lung filled with smoke, leaning over and blowing smoke on me," said Franke.
Despite his hilarity, Kelleher was a savvy businessman who was involved in all battles and determined to win, Franke said.
"I nicknamed him General Patton: he was charging hard, get into the tank and go."
American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said he had a "gazillion" of herbs.
"Everyone has herbal stories," Parker said.
Rather than share a joke or joke that Kelleher drew him, Parker said that he would remember mostly two things about Kelleher.
First: his "phenomenal" listening skills.
"He was the best listener I've ever met in my life," said Parker, "you tell that to people and they are a little surprised (because) he always speaks a lot."
His attention was always focused on the conversation. It did not matter who else was in the room or entering the room, said Parker.
"He listened carefully," Parker said. "It was really helpful, and what I understood was that he learned so much, and he really cared what people had to say," he said. of their thoughts and their origin ….. I think it's like that that he's going so well in touch with his people (at Southwest) .It's like that that he's learned what was going on in his airline. & # 39; & # 39;
Parker said the other thing that had struck him about Kelleher was that he avoided talking about the typical CEO when he talked about the success of Southwest. Rather than boast of the abundant profits of Southwest and the strong performance of the stock market, it has always focused on the employees of the airline.
"If anyone could be in the lobby of the celebrity shareholders, that's Herb," Parker said. "At those dinners where he sat and talked about business, he would never talk about his business in these terms – it was always about his people." ;
Parker, who described Kelleher as "a very good friend," said Thursday that it was "a sad and sad day."
"He was just a remarkable guy who cared so much about his team and people in general."
With co-founder Rollin King, Kelleher launched Southwest in 1971 with a Dallas Love Field service in Houston and San Antonio. Southwest currently serves 99 cities in the United States and abroad with 742 aircraft. It is the largest carrier of the country by domestic passengers and it enjoys an excellent reputation for customer service.
Continuing the principles of Kelleher's nonconformity, Southwest is today the only carrier to offer two checked bags without a reservation change fee, without allocating seats. And while other airlines divide their planes into sections where the more you pay, the more you earn, Southwest maintains an egalitarian approach. The current CEO, Gary Kelly, likes to say that there is no second class in the Southwest.
MORE: Southwest Airlines User Guide.
Southwest announced Kelleher's death on social media.
"Herb was a pioneer, a maverick and an innovator.His vision revolutionized commercial aviation and democratized the skies.His passion, his desire to live and his insatiable investment in relationships left a lasting and immeasurable impression. on all those who knew him and will forever be the cornerstone and esprit de corps of Southwest Airlines, "the airline said in a statement. "The entire Southwest family presents our deepest condolences to Herb's wife, Joan, and all his family."