Herb Kelleher, co-founder of Southwest Airlines, has died aged 87, the company has revealed in a brief statement.
Launched in 1967, the low-cost US carrier went on to reshape global aviation.
Kelleher is survived by his wife Joan and three of their four children.
A statement from Southwest Airlines read: “Herb was a pioneer, a maverick, and an innovator.
“His vision revolutionised commercial aviation and democratised the skies.
“Herb’s passion, zest for life, and insatiable investment in relationships made lasting and immeasurable impressions on all who knew him and will forever be the bedrock and esprit de corps of Southwest Airlines.”
The airline initially aimed to provide cheap flights between the Texas cities of Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio.
However, it was only permitted to fly following a supreme court of Texas ruling in 1971 striking down challenges from rival operators.
Current Southwest Airlines chief executive, Gary Kelly, said: “Herb was a lifelong mentor and friend, and one of the greatest joys of my life has been working alongside Herb for over 30 years.
“His stamp on the airline industry and all those he touched has been profound.
“His vision for making air travel affordable for all revolutionised the industry, and you can still see that transformation taking place today.”
Southwest offered cheap tickets in single-class cabins without reserved seats for the first time.
These innovations have since became common in the airline industry.
Southwest’s business model also included shortened turnaround times at airports, cabin crew collecting rubbish and high aircraft utilisation.
The carrier has since expanded to become the world’s largest low-cost airline.
It currently operates more than 700 Boeing 737 jets.
In peak travel seasons, Southwest operates more than 4,000 weekday departures among a network of 99 destinations in the United States and ten additional countries.