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Backstage at American Airlines, the Reality Show

October 18, 2006 By: Dan Butcher Travel Agent

This summer American Airlines let TV cameras from CNBC have a week-long peek at its inner workings, and the result is a two-hour documentary that aired Wednesday night, the Wall Street Journal reports. It's more detailed than the drama you see on A&E's "Airline," which chronicles life at several Southwest Airlines terminals. And it's part of what appears to be a growing trend—airline as reality show. For carriers, there appears to be a benefit in letting customers see how the sausage gets made. Customers get to appreciate the challenges of coordinating thousands of flights every day and dealing with disruptions, medical emergencies and baggage-belt breakdowns. Southwest has seen an increase in job applications by airing its work. The CNBC special, called "Inside American Airlines: A Week in the Life," covers familiar ground for frequent travelers, from how difficult it is to get a frequent-flier-award seat at the lowest mileage-redemption levels to a history of labor woes. But it has some bits of enlightenment for viewers—an insider's window on an airline scramble to accommodate passengers when bad weather and mechanical problems arise, a sobering look at the lack of cargo-security screening and a lesson in practicality when a mechanic spends his days sharpening old tools back to life to save $1 million annually.

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