Departures from young Branson Airport take nosedive in 2015

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BRANSON, Mo. (AP) _ Departures from Branson Airport have fallen sharply in the year since its last mainline carriers pulled out.

The Springfield News-Leader ( ) reports Southwest Airlines and Frontier Airlines quit serving the airport in 2014, replaced by public charter flights.

A generous estimate puts the airport’s 2015 boarding passengers around 18,000 by year’s end, a fraction of the roughly 130,000 passengers in 2013, the facility’s best year.

The Taney County Commission has approved spending $500,000 to go along with about $1.5 million from other sources to lure a new airline to Branson Airport, which opened in 2009.

The closest the airport came to landing a major carrier was in late March, when billionaire Richard Branson announced that Virgin America would start serving Branson.

It turned out to be an April Fool’s joke.