Gary Kelly

Photograph by Nancy Newberry for Fortune
  • Title
  • Company
    Southwest Airlines

Times have been shockingly good in the airlines business in recent years, with low oil prices just the latest boon. Sure enough profits and margins for Southwest, the industry’s stalwart, have been flying high. Meanwhile the company is expanding, spending $156 million on an international terminal at Hobby Airport in Houston, as it expands service to 50 cities in Central and South America by 2020. Under Kelly, as Fortune chronicled recently, Southwest is looking more like its rivals. It is serving bigger airports—a change of course for an operation that flew past competitors for decades with short-haul flights to smaller airports for quicker turnaround and cheaper tickets. And Kelly, who’s been in the pilot seat since 2004, is shifting gears to attract the high-fare-paying, long-distance traveling business customer, whose spending is growing faster than any other in U.S. air travel. In 2014, Southwest carried more passengers in the U.S. than any other airline and was a top-performing stock, posting a 122% return.