BUSINESS
03/28/2008 02:45 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Southwest's Quirky Ways Keep It Profitable

Southwest Airlines, with a raucous corporate culture that is the exception in the grim airline industry, stands to look even wilder as some of its big competitors contemplate mergers that would only further muddy their corporate identities.

For proof that Southwest is sticking with its oddball ways, look no further than its chief executive, Gary C. Kelly, who transformed himself from a buttoned-down C.P.A. to one of Corporate America's most colorful bosses.

His first week at Southwest, in 1986, Mr. Kelly sat in his car in the headquarters parking lot one morning, wearing Hawaiian shorts and a polo shirt as he had been instructed. He was a worried man. "I thought everybody was playing a joke on me," he said. "I had my normal suit in the car -- just in case." (No joke -- just Hawaiian shorts day.)

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