• Career Southwest employee was among top women in U.S. airlines
  • Laraba rose from part-time agent to senior vice president

Teresa Laraba, one of the U.S. airline industry’s highest-ranking female executives as Southwest Airlines Co.’s head of customer services, has died at the age of 53.

Laraba rose to prominence at the Dallas-based carrier after starting as an entry-level customer service agent in 1984, the company said Saturday in a statement. Southwest declined to provide a cause of yesterday’s death.

“It’s a deeply sad day at Southwest Airlines as we share the news of Teresa’s death,” Chief Executive Officer Gary Kelly said in the statement. “Teresa Laraba contributed so much to Southwest Airlines during her more than 30 years with the company and she will be forever in our hearts.”

Laraba took on new responsibilities with the retirement a month ago of Ginger Hardage, who was Southwest’s senior vice president of culture and communications.

Laraba attended Texas Tech University, North Texas State University and the University of Texas El Paso. After starting at Southwest in a part-time position in El Paso, Laraba went on to be a supervisor in customer service, then a director of field employment. In 2000 she was named senior director of ground operations training and airport solutions.

Laraba, who lived in Dallas, had two daughters.

In a profile page on LinkedIn, the professional networking site, Laraba wrote of her passion for her job and employer. "I am one more example of how working at Southwest Airlines can be a lifelong career," she wrote in an undated post.

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