A&E’s Old Southwest Airlines TV Show, “Airline”

A&E’s Old Southwest Airlines TV Show, “Airline”

28

I recently went down an aviation rabbit hole on YouTube, which caused me to spend more time than I should watching a hilarious show that I remembered fondly from back in the day. If you don’t yet have weekend plans, now you do. 😉

The TV show about Southwest Airlines operations

In 2004 and 2005 A&E had a show called “Airline,” which essentially followed Southwest Airlines’ operations. The TV show was on for three seasons and there were a total of 70 episodes, before it got canceled.

Many people may remember the show from back in the day. I know when I stumbled upon my first clip on YouTube a few days ago, I immediately remembered watching the show years ago. For those who haven’t seen the show, it followed Southwest Airlines employees dealing with difficult situations at the carrier’s biggest hubs.

As you may have guessed, the show primarily involves when employees find themselves in tricky, unusual, or funny situations. More often than not, passengers depicted in the show were also cranky, given delays and other operational issues.

Each episode is roughly 20 minutes, so you can watch a couple of episodes below, if you want to get a taste of the show.

Alternatively A&E has various reels on YouTube, if you just want to watch 90 minutes of nonstop action.

It’s funny how aviation has changed

I remember watching this show about 15 years ago, and it’s fascinating to rewatch now, because my takeaway from it is very different. I can’t help but notice how much customer service and passenger behavior has changed over this amount of time, for better and worse.

I feel like nowadays customer service agents make very few exceptions. That’s partly because flying has changed (ultra low cost carriers weren’t a big thing back then), and it’s also partly because airline employees don’t have as much latitude to do what they’d like. Things are a lot more automated than they used to be.

It’s amazing to watch clips where a passenger made a mistake that was entirely their fault, they’re rude to the ticket agent, and then somehow with 10 minutes until departure the ticket agent still escorts them through security and to the gate so that they don’t miss the flight.

Along those lines, I think frontline airline employees just have a lot less tolerance for BS than they used to. While unruly passenger behavior is now at an all-time high, airline employees don’t generally engage with those customers, and instead call the police. Back in the day airline employees often kept talking to people even as they were screaming at then.

Admittedly this was a TV show, so in some cases I imagine airline employees were more happy to just play along than they might have otherwise been, but still.

Bottom line

I recently came across the show “Airline” from the early 2000s, which I remember seeing at the time. As someone who loves TV shows about airlines (there aren’t many!), I enjoyed watching some of these episodes. It’s noteworthy how interactions between customers and employees have changed in the airline industry over the years, for better and worse.

Anyone else find the show “Airline” to be amusing? And what are your takeaways from watching it?

Conversations (28)
The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.
Type your response here.

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Anyone can comment, and your email address will not be published. Register to save your unique username and earn special OMAAT reputation perks!

  1. Dave Gale Guest

    I wonder if the Southwest employees and the passengers were paid while on camera?

  2. Tony Guest

    I loved this show and give much respect to the customer service agents. Colleen at Midway was the BEST, IMHO. She could defuse any situation with class and professionalism. Same for Mike at LAX (who's no longer with us).

  3. Cathy Guest

    I remember seeing the cameras at BWI, my home airport. I traveled for business often and did NOT want to do anything that caused the cameras to turn my way. I was the stealth passenger.

  4. Cathy Guest

    I remember seeing them at BWI (my home airport). I travelled often for business and my goal was to NOT be on Airline! I was the stealth passenger.

  5. Michelle Felts Guest

    I didn't remember the show but actually just started watching YouTube and I came across the show.
    I like the show even though it's old. I was thinking to myself what it would be like to have a show now with Vivid going on..Cool Show!!

  6. Michael Acevedo Guest

    I wish they do show now like airlines I am shocked southwest would not want to want TV or other airlines to show what goes on I really enjoyed airlines show when it was on A&E.

  7. BenR Guest

    Anyone else remember the BBC “airport” series from the 90s?

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=mg0PCS_Y4Es&list=PL0CCC3C966382E5C6&index=1

  8. OPR New Member

    I used to watch that! It was great, too bad they didn't make more, but I guess at some point you run out of material and it's just more of the same.

  9. Brian Guest

    Sadly, Mike Carr passed away a few years ago.

    https://www.currentobituary.com/obit/214043

    1. Jerry Guest

      Omg he was based in Los Angeles right. I did not know that may he RiP

  10. Brian G. Member

    I have the first season on DVD! If you can track down the DVD it is much better quality than the Youtube rips.

  11. Jorge Paez Guest

    OMG! Watched a couple hours worth.
    And this was in the before times!
    I would have called the cops on most of these people! Especially that entitled fat mom with the 2 kids who kept putting it on Southwest that one of her kids was being escorted without a legal guardian (which she initiated) and got her way. Total trash.....

  12. Mike Goldinger Guest

    Loved the show when a vibrator going off in a ladies luggage

  13. cwlange Guest

    Entitled passengers suck.

  14. Da Guest

    Hi Ben,
    Interesting post.

    I used to be an airline agent a few years ago, and later on passenger services supervisor.
    Fully agree with your comment - nowadays there are a lot less exceptions, agents are trained to handle by the book.

    Many of them also have no proper clue how their DCS-system actually works, since most systems nowadays have a graphical interface, whilst the system behind is still a software...

    Hi Ben,
    Interesting post.

    I used to be an airline agent a few years ago, and later on passenger services supervisor.
    Fully agree with your comment - nowadays there are a lot less exceptions, agents are trained to handle by the book.

    Many of them also have no proper clue how their DCS-system actually works, since most systems nowadays have a graphical interface, whilst the system behind is still a software of typing commands (and those whom know how to use it are a lot faster of course).

    I’ve very much enjoyed the airport job, mainly since it is super rewarding to help people, getting them from A to B, and to provide great customer service. Certainly I used to be “old school” and customer service friendly.
    However, passengers nowadays are just a lot more rude, and show zero appreciation.

    And with new airlines and fares on the horizon there is just more potential for provocation: most people just dislike being charged. Even if they agreed to that previously.

    Therefore I am super happy to have moved on, but I still miss handling the gate. And yes, I absolutely loved handling a cancelled flight, handling those customers always has been nice. But I am similarly happy to have moved on.

    I suspect that the next years more and more agents will be less trained and tensions will rise even further whilst more and more ground handling is subcontracted.

    1. Jorge Paez Guest

      You Da, are unique!

    2. Jorge Paez Guest

      How do those front line workers deal with these people without their heads exploding!!??
      That Jets fan was a classic example.
      After all his histrionics, he left just an hour later and with extra compensation! SMH.
      And people are worse today!

  15. Todd Guest

    If it wasn’t for the camera! It’s all for the cameras

  16. JS Guest

    There were actually passengers who arrived late and they were rebooked on a later flight for free. (After/Despite yelling at the staff)

    I gotta think, back then airlines were so much more lenient about their change policy? Or was that just for the cameras?

    1. Kon Guest

      They were. ULCC changed the game in that part. With the need for basic economy tickets to be able to compete on price has made many tickets people have very inflexible. Also employees then had more flexibility to help people. Now it is a lot more here are your choices and I can't offer anything else unless you are in F or a high status holder and even then it isn't a given.
      At...

      They were. ULCC changed the game in that part. With the need for basic economy tickets to be able to compete on price has made many tickets people have very inflexible. Also employees then had more flexibility to help people. Now it is a lot more here are your choices and I can't offer anything else unless you are in F or a high status holder and even then it isn't a given.
      At the same time some flexibility is coming back with free changes and the ability to turn booking into vouchers.

  17. Patrick Guest

    My wife was an FA for SWA for 32 years. I heard all kinds of stories over the years. She finally got tired of all the unruly passengers and retired a few years ago. But she had many good years with fond memories and good friends.

    1. RJ Guest

      I have the DVD set on my shelf!. I haven't watched it in years but I remember some of the Southwest policies of the time were amusing, like the strict no pets policy and worse, if you lost your paper ticket you lost your flight.

  18. James Guest

    I “stumbled” upon this on TikTok

  19. ROBERT J FAHR Guest

    Ben's callout about front line workers having so much less latitude to problem solve is a big change. They are there in the moment and could "makes things happen" in that era. Now they face punitive measures including termination for breaking a rule. This is not the way to run a customer facing business.

  20. Icarus Guest

    All those idiotic customers who arrive late and think the airline should hold the flight. Nothing changes. The supervisor at Midway is great.

  21. Grey Member

    You should mention that it was another American remake of a British programme. It initially followed Britannia Airways, then later EasyJet. Was quite good. I never saw the US version, so can't comment, but the original was surely worth watching.

  22. Alan Guest

    I think it was inspired by a UK version with EasyJet that aired in the late 90's/early 2000's, which is an equally addictive watch. Unfortunately, seems the abuse of airline agents hasn't changed in the years since.

  23. George Romey Guest

    Yes those old episodes are on YouTube. It seems though that since then incidents of drunken, clueless people have become much more the norm.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Da Guest

Hi Ben, Interesting post. I used to be an airline agent a few years ago, and later on passenger services supervisor. Fully agree with your comment - nowadays there are a lot less exceptions, agents are trained to handle by the book. Many of them also have no proper clue how their DCS-system actually works, since most systems nowadays have a graphical interface, whilst the system behind is still a software of typing commands (and those whom know how to use it are a lot faster of course). I’ve very much enjoyed the airport job, mainly since it is super rewarding to help people, getting them from A to B, and to provide great customer service. Certainly I used to be “old school” and customer service friendly. However, passengers nowadays are just a lot more rude, and show zero appreciation. And with new airlines and fares on the horizon there is just more potential for provocation: most people just dislike being charged. Even if they agreed to that previously. Therefore I am super happy to have moved on, but I still miss handling the gate. And yes, I absolutely loved handling a cancelled flight, handling those customers always has been nice. But I am similarly happy to have moved on. I suspect that the next years more and more agents will be less trained and tensions will rise even further whilst more and more ground handling is subcontracted.

1
Dave Gale Guest

I wonder if the Southwest employees and the passengers were paid while on camera?

0
Jerry Guest

Omg he was based in Los Angeles right. I did not know that may he RiP

0
Meet Ben Schlappig, OMAAT Founder
4,523,713 Miles Traveled

25,807,500 Words Written

28,675 Posts Published