Southwest grounds pilots who landed jet at wrong airport

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 passenger jet takes off at Midway Airport in Chicago, Illinois in this July 24, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes/Files (Reuters)

By Kevin Murphy KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - Southwest Airlines suspended two pilots from flying on Monday after their jetliner with 124 passengers landed at the wrong airport near Branson, Missouri, late on Sunday, a spokeswoman said. A Southwest captain, who has worked 15 years for the airline, and a first officer were removed from flying duties pending a federal investigation of the landing, said Michelle Agnew, a Southwest spokeswoman. The Boeing 737-700 landed at M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport instead of at Branson Airport, the main commercial air strip near Branson, which has a much longer runway, Southwest said in a statement. The airports are about 7 miles apart. The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the mistaken landing but had no other comment, spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory said. The plane left Chicago Midway Airport on Sunday on a flight to Dallas Love Field with a planned first stop in Branson, a musical entertainment and tourism mecca in southwest Missouri. Southwest is looking into "all the circumstances" that led the captain to land at the wrong airport, Agnew said. After landing at the wrong airport, passengers were taken by ground transportation to the correct airport and then were flown to Dallas on another jet later on Sunday, she said. Southwest apologized to passengers, is refunding the cost of their tickets and giving them travel credits, she said. The airplane took off on Monday afternoon with a new flight crew, Agnew said. It was bound for Tulsa, Oklahoma, for refueling and would go back in service, she said. The Branson landing marked the second time in less than two months that a pilot landed a jetliner 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, Phil Berlowitz, Dan Grebler and Amanda Kwan)

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