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Investigation launched after Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 lands at wrong airport – on runway half the scheduled size

Domestic flight in US was due to arrive at Branson Airport in Missouri – but instead touched down at smaller Taney County Airport seven miles away

An investigation has been launched in the US after a domestic flight scheduled to arrive at Branson, Missouri last night instead landed at a different airport seven miles (11km) away.

The Boeing 737-700 made an unplanned stop at the much smaller Taney County Airport, and was forced to come to an abrupt halt on a runway half the size of the one at Branson Airport.

This morning it remained unclear whether an emergency, change of plan or simple mistake led the pilots to land at the wrong airport, and Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson Tony Molinaro said the agency had begun an investigation.

Southwest Airlines, which operated the flight, described the landing as “uneventful” and said ground crew members were quickly driven up the road from Branson to process passengers.

But a number of those on board told reporters the landing seemed unusually “hard and fast”. One said: “We had a really rough landing, I guess because the runway was too short for the plane.”

Witnesses said the plane came to a stop 300 feet (90 metres) from the end of the 3,700ft (1,100m) runway. Branson Airport's website says its runway is 7,140 feet (2,176 metres) long.

Airline spokesperson Brad Hawkins said Southwest Airlines Flight 4013, carrying 124 passengers and five crew members, was scheduled to go from Chicago's Midway International Airport to Branson Airport.

Mr Hawkins said: “The landing was uneventful, and all customers and crew are safe.

“Our ground crew from the Branson airport arrived at the airport to take care of our customers and their baggage.”

Flight 4013 had been scheduled to go from Branson to Dallas' Love Field, and Mr Hawkins said another plane was flown in specifically to Branson Airport at around 10pm to take the passengers and crew to Dallas.

Mr Hawkins said the aircraft at Taney County would be able to take off on the smaller runway, and Southwest expects to fly it out “as early as tomorrow morning”.