Southwest Airlines to Drop Flights to Key West, Jackson, Branson

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 05: A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 passenger jet taxis on the tarmac after arriving at Los Angeles International Airport on April 5, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. Southwest Airlines said it finished inspecting its grounded 737-300 series planes and of the nearly 80 planes five of them have cracks in the aluminum skin. The inspections come after Southwest Flight 812 had to make an emergency landing when a piece of its fuselage skin was torn while on its way from Phoenix to Sacramento. The discovery prompted the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Boeing to require emergency inspections on a portion of the 737 fleet manufactured during the 1980s and 1990s for the same fatigue cracks in the fuselage like the ones on the Southwest jets. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

    Southwest Airlines Co. said Thursday that it will end service in June to Key West, Fla.; Jackson, Miss.; and Branson, Mo., because it can't make money serving the smaller markets.

    The changes come as the company works on folding AirTran Airways -- which served many smaller cities -- into the Southwest brand by the end of 2014. The Dallas-based airline is the nation's fourth-biggest airline by passenger traffic.

    Southwest said the closures would eliminate 39 jobs and the employees would be offered jobs in other cities or given severance packages.

    Southwest began serving Jackson in 1997 and converted AirTran service in Key West and Branson to its own planes after it bought AirTran in 2011. The company said that it would operate full schedules to all three airports until the closures.

    Airlines have been reducing service to smaller towns for several years. High fuel prices have made small planes used on those routes unprofitable because the cost of fuel is divided among fewer passengers.