Southwest Airlines will serve Wichita, Branson - KCTV5

Southwest Airlines will serve Wichita, Branson

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Southwest Airlines announced Friday afternoon that it will begin providing service to Wichita and Branson.

This could decrease the number of passengers using Kansas City International Airport.

The airline will convert AirTran Airways at Branson to Southwest operations. The airline did not provide a timeline for the conversion.

The same conversion from AirTran to Southwest will also occur in Wichita and Des Moines. Southwest will begin flying its planes to and from Wichita in 2013. Which routes will be served by Southwest from Wichita haven't been announced, but Dallas Love Field, St. Louis and Houston are possibilities.

Wichita and Kansas are helping underwrite the service.

Southwest announced the decisions as part of an announcement about retaining service at 22 United States and international destinations currently served by AirTran.

This includes Cancun, Mexico; Montego Bay, Jamaica; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Bermuda, Bahamas, Dominican Republic and Aruba.

Bob Jordan, who is a Southwest Airlines executive vice president and AirTrain Airways president, said the markets have long wanted Southwest service.

"We know there are Southwest customers who want access to these cities, but have never before had the opportunity," Jordan said in a statement. "We are excited about the cities we have chosen to keep in our combined network."

The Branson's airport opened in May 2009 and is the nation's first privately developed commercial airport. Besides AirTran, Frontier Airlines also serves Branson.

Southwest serves the most passengers at KCI. City officials previously had been concerned that Wichita service by Southwest could cut into KCI's passenger numbers.

Airport officials said Friday afternoon that it's difficult to assess the impact on KCI since the flight schedules for Wichita and Branson have not been published.

To read the entire news release including the full list of the 22 airports that Southwest will take over for AirTran, click here. The airline will also stop serving six airports currently served by AirTran. This will be effective Aug. 12.

Southwest announced its decision to acquire AirTran in 2010.

Refresh this page for updates on this developing story.

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