Reality TV Goes Airborne

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Southwest Airlines is taking a leap of promotional faith. For those who need reassurance that other people miss flights, get seated next to people who apparently don't bathe and suffer various other indignities during air travel, A&E presents Airline, its foray into reality television. The often high-brow network now offers Southwest Airlines, its employees and passengers as subjects for your enjoyment. The show follows day-in-the-life encounters with weather delays, drunks, blackouts, and one scene highlighting the airline's well-publicized policy of making very fat passengers pay for two seats and can't be much worse than watching people eat mealworms or cheat on each other ... or can it? "Everyone ... wants to share their travel stories," Nancy Dubuc, A&E's VP for documentary programming, told the Associated Press. It's probably just that kind of potentially negative PR that sent all the big airlines diving for cover when A&E pitched them. Southwest COO Colleen Barrett said she agreed to allow the cameras in after talking to officials at easyJet in Britain, which is in its sixth year as the focus of a reality show there and claims it has been a boon to their business. "I started thinking ... it's basically 18 hours of free publicity. You can't buy that kind of PR," said Barrett. According to the Associated Press report, Southwest generally comes off well in the show but air travel in general takes some knocks.