Southwest Airlines will end flights to Key West, 2 other cities; cites lack of profits

DALLAS – 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.