Is Gary Kelly Vaccinated? Southwest CEO Tests Covid-19 Positive After Saying Masks Not Required in Flights

A day after a maskless and coughing Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest Airlines, attended the Senate hearing, he was tested positive for Covid-19. Kelly, unlike his counterparts from other airlines, insisted that masks were no longer required on airlines.

Kelly tested positive on Friday, two days after he attended the Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Wednesday afternoon.

Gary Kelly
Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest Airline Twitter

Gary Tested Negative Before the Meeting

In a statement issued, a Southwest spokeswoman claimed that the CEO had tested negative multiple times prior to the hearing.

"Although testing negative multiple times prior to the Senate Commerce Committee hearing, Gary tested positive for COVID-19 after returning home, experiencing mild symptoms, and taking a PCR test," read the statement. "Gary is doing well and currently resting at home, he has been fully vaccinated and received the booster earlier this year. Gary's symptoms continue to be mild, and each day he is moving closer to a full recovery," it added.

CNBC reported that following Kelly's result, United's CEO Scott Kirby, who was sitting on his left, also underwent the test and it came out negative on Friday. It also reported that American's CEO Doug Parker, Delta's chief of operations, John Laughter, who were part on the hearing and sat in close vicinity of the infected CEO, also tested negative.

In a statement issued later, Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, who was also present during the hearing, said that she was advised by Kelly shortly after he tested positive when she was returning to work after getting the booster shot.

"I am following CDC protocols and will test several times within the 5-7 day recommended period, and before traveling with my family for the holidays," she added.

Kelly Receive Brickbats on Social Media

During the meeting while responding to Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) question about passengers not having to wear masks on board, Kelly said, "I think the case is very strong that masks don't add much if anything in the air cabin environment — it's very safe, very high-quality compared to any other indoor setting."

According to Dallas News, after he tested positive for the virus, Kelly wrote a note to his employees providing his health update. Stating that he "confused some with a short answer to a question about masks" at Wednesday's Senate hearing, Kelly backed the mask mandate. "So, to be clear, I and Southwest and the A4A are all aligned and support the current federal mask mandate at airports and on airplanes. There is no effort underway to change it before it expires," he said in the message.

A video clip of Kelly coughing during the hearing also surfaced on social media. The social media users took the opportunity to troll the Southwest CEO. Here are some of the reactions:

This article was first published on December 18, 2021