U.S. probing why Southwest jet landed at wrong Missouri airport

KANSAS CITY, Missouri Mon Jan 13, 2014 10:56am EST

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KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - U.S. authorities are investigating why a Southwest Airlines Co jet carrying 124 passengers landed at the wrong airport near Branson, Missouri, late Sunday, a Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman said Monday.

The Boeing 737-700 jet landed at the M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport instead of the longer runway at Branson Airport, the main commercial air strip near Branson, according to Southwest Airlines. The airports are about 7 miles apart.

The FAA is investigating the mistaken landing but had no other comment, said spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory.

The aircraft took off from Chicago Midway Airport on Sunday for Branson, with continuing service to Dallas Love Field, said Southwest spokeswoman Michelle Agnew in a statement Monday.

The plane landed safely, but at the wrong airport, and passengers were taken by ground crews to the correct airport, Agnew said. Another Southwest jet was brought in for the connecting flight to Dallas Love Field later Sunday night, she said.

Southwest is looking into "all the circumstances" which led the captain to land at the wrong airport, Agnew said. Southwest apologized to passengers, is refunding the cost of their tickets and giving travel credits, she said.

Southwest has served Branson, a musical entertainment and tourism mecca in southwest Missouri, since last March but is discontinuing service in June, it has announced.

The Branson landing marked the second time in less than two months that a jetliner landed at the wrong airport in the Midwest.

On November 21, a Boeing 747 cargo plane flown by Atlas Air that was supposed to land at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kansas, instead landed on the much shorter runway at Colonel James Jabara Airport, a Wichita city airport.

(Reporting by Kevin Murphy; Editing by Scott Malone and Phil Berlowitz)

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