A Cleveland native turned airline co-founder has died. Rollin King – who helped Southwest Airlines get off the ground more than 40 years ago – was 83. ideastream’s Brian Bull reports:
King and partner Herb Kelleher launched their airline amidst tough opposition from larger, more established carriers, which included nearly four years of legal wrangling. When Southwest first began service in 1971, their handful of planes only flew within Texas, a way to steer past prices set by the Civil Aeronautics Board.
The strategy was to introduce a lower-cost, better-service airline for Lone Star travelers. Early in-flight service was provided by female flight attendants in “hot pants” – who gave out free bottles of liquor to travelers who purchased full-fare tickets.
In a vintage Southwest Airlines ad, King shared his company’s 70s-friendly philosophy:
“Well, love is really what the airline is all about. We love our passengers and they love us.”
King was a graduate of Case Western Reserve University, before moving on to Harvard Business School. He later moved to San Antonio, where he worked as an investment banker, then operated a small, charter airline.
While King resigned from Southwest in 1976, he stayed with the airline for another two years as a board member and captain.
A relative says King died of complications from a stroke he suffered last year.
King’s legacy, Southwest Airlines, operates out of both Cleveland and Akron.