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Business and the Economy
Business and economy news and issues in the Ozarks.

Branson Airport Looking to Rebound in 2015

KSMU archives
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Photo credit: explorebranson.com

Branson Airport is hoping new commitments in 2015 will fill some of the gaps left after this year’s canceling of service from Southwest and Frontier airlines.

The airport will rely on charter brand service to do so. Last week, it announced flights for the start of next year’s tourism season. That includes flights to Denver, a hole left after Frontier’s announcement to pull out of Branson, and service to Austin, Texas.

In a news release, Branson Airport Executive Director Jeff Bourk said, “The 5 ½ years of Branson Airport’s existence has been a tumultuous period for the airline industry.”

Bourk added that historically high jet fuel prices have led to numerous airline bankruptcies and airline mergers, in turn causing “significant negative impacts at airports around the country.” While Bourk says that air service in Branson has performed well, according to U.S. Department of Transportation data, the airport has not been immune to changes.

“These industry changes have led to our two major carriers Southwest Airlines and Frontier airlines to choose to allocate their aircraft resources in other larger markets.  This has created opportunity for Elite Airways and Buzz Airways,” said Bourk.

Branson AirExpress, operated by Elite Airways, will be flying Houston (HOU) starting Feb 23rd and Denver (DEN) starting April 16th. Flights will be in a 50 seat CRJ-200 jet aircraft.  Branson AirExpress operated by Buzz Airways will start service to Chicago (MDW), and Austin (AUS) on May 8th. Flights will be in a 30 seat Jetstream 41 aircraft. One-way tickets, including taxes, will start at $159 to Houston and Denver, and $149 to Chicago and Austin. The flights are designed to allow customers to book separate tickets on other airlines in order to connect to/from popular gateways through all four cities.

Flights to the four cities are available for purchase now at flybranson.com or BransonAirExpress.com.

“Expanding our schedule and operating in these markets makes a lot of sense,” stated John Pearsall, Chief Executive Officer of Elite Airways. “Other carriers such as Southwest Airlines and Frontier Airlines have proven the demand in Branson.  This new schedule will give passengers lots of choices and access to the national air space system.  If things continue to go well in Branson, we could further increase the capacity in this market as well as other areas of the country primarily in markets that have lost service similarly to Branson.”

According to transportation data, airlines operating at BKG have generated 1.1 million passengers since inception in 2009.  Bourke says about 65 percent of Branson Airport traffic is destination traffic, or tourists visiting the area.

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