Check-in time at Southwest Airlines usually means one thing: a chaotic crowd. Yes, the airline is generally good at maintaining its schedules, but “Airline,” shot at LAX and Chi’s Midway Airport, goes overboard in the promotion of Southwest, telling a story of caring ticketing agents and check-in clerks who want to ensure every customer is treated with dignity and fairness. Billed as reality, “Airline” is half infomercial and half training tape — it’s SWA employees solving every problem with a smile and none of the frustration of flying exposed.
Many Southwest frequent fliers will choke on their peanuts while watching this piece of propaganda that represents ground crews as one big, happy, high-fivin’ family. In the first two segs, they deal with drunks and an overweight passenger, getting hotel rooms for about 60 passengers and a guy too smelly to board a plane.
There’s also the Chinese couple whisked by a supervisor to an international terminal with just minutes to spare to get them on their flight to China. As he doesn’t possess superpowers, the ability to suspend time or even a phone to call ahead, the obvious happens — the couple misses the flight and the supervisor walks away, telling them they’re in the hands of Air China. This is what passes for drama on “Airline.”
Even when “Airline” has a good case study, series seems more determined to show how great a job the crew does rather than reflect the frustration passengers feel. One guy gets to the Chicago counter late because his rental car was stolen — or “hijacked,” as he puts it. Then the computer can’t find the record of his purchase of a ticket. Once that’s solved — and he has missed his flight — SWA determines he needs to buy two seats because he’s too big for one chair. And just as he’s positive he’ll get on the next flight, a storm wreaks havoc with the schedule and he’s stuck at Midway for more than 10 hours.
With its unconvincing stories and hassles caused by check-in agents who could use some extra training, production is consistently flat, and the overuse of planes landing and taking off makes for monotonous visuals.
Kal Weber’s narration has the dullness of an industrial instruction video. One keeps wondering if the picture on the screen will freeze and the audience will be asked a multiple-choice question on how to deal with the onscreen dilemma. Answer? Grab the remote.