Reality show begins filming next week at BWI
Coming program on TLC promises a behind-the-scenes look at Southwest Airlines
Travelers begin boarding a Southwest Airlines flight at BWI-Thurgood Marshall Airport. The airport's largest carrier will be the subject of an upcoming TLC reality show. (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun / December 16, 2009)
The show from TLC, which doesn't yet have a name, claims to give TV viewers unprecedented access into the day-to-day inner workings of Southwest Airlines, BWI's largest carrier.
The bit of celebrity comes at an opportune time for the airline, as it's in the middle of consolidating with BWI's No. 2 carrier, AirTran.
It also casts a spotlight on the airport as it undergoes a major expansion that will transform its central section, including parts that have been unchanged since its opening (as Friendship International) in 1950.
"It's a good opportunity to showcase BWI and the region," said Jonathan Dean, airport spokesman.
Southwest seems as fond of the cameras as one of the Kardashians. In 2004, an A&E show, "Airline," followed a similar premise, chronicling the daily misadventures of passengers and the personal lives of Southwest's employees. D-list celebrities, including Sisqo, lead singer of Baltimore R&B group Dru Hill, and television star Charo both made appearances. The show lasted three seasons.
The new series will have a different theme, said Patrice Andrews, a development executive with the production company, ITV Studios. Though only 30 minutes long, it aims to provide an "in-depth" look at air travel, from the gate to the aircraft. The series has the potential to attract anyone who's ever been on a plane, Andrews said.
"There's a journey and there's situations that are completely relatable," she said.
The new series coincides with a significant development for the airline. In May, Southwest and AirTran merged and are waiting for approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly under one name.
Dean said the airline approached the airport about the project several weeks ago.
"With BWI as one of Southwest's largest markets, it makes sense to shoot it here," he said.
Management was comfortable with the production because the airline is its biggest carrier. Over the years, the airport has served as a filming location for several productions, including "The Wire" and the movies "Twelve Monkeys" and "Home for the Holidays." "Airline" was shot mainly at BWI, Dean said.
For the new show, cameras will have access to all of the airline's facilities, including its gates, aircraft and office space. Andrews said cameras won't film at security checks.
Dean said he did not anticipate customers would experience any delays in their travels because of the filming.