Southwest Airlines chairman, president and CEO Gary Kelly has won the 2016 Tony Jannus Award.
Southwest is Tampa International Airport's largest carrier and has been serving the region for more than 20 years.
The airline has grown to become one of the largest in the nation under Kelly's leadership and was ranked seventh on the list of most admired companies in the world by Fortune magazine this year.
Kelly has worked at Southwest for more than 30 years, starting out as a controller and from there moving on to be chief financial officer, vice president of finance and executive vice president before being promoted to CEO and vice chairman in July 2004. He took over the roles of chairman and president in 2008.
Airport officials announced the award at the Tampa airport Friday morning, though Kelly could not attend. Southwest sent a 737-700 plane bearing the Tony Jannus Award logo and Kelly's name.
The Tony Jannus Award is presented every year to one recipient for outstanding achievement in commercial aviation. The award is named after the pilot credited with the first scheduled airline flight, on New Year's Day in 1914 between St. Petersburg and Tampa. Prior winners include Donald W. Douglas Sr., founder of Douglas Aircraft Co.; William Powell Lear, inventor and founder of Lear Jet Corp.; and Maurice J. Gallagher Jr., chairman and CEO of Allegiant Travel Co.
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