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TV Review: Documentary on Edinburgh Airport never really takes off

You may think working at an airport is all about glamour and eyeliner, but this documentary knocks that image aside and looks at the workaday folk behind the scenes. There is the motherly woman who does the announcements, the baggage handlers in their luminous vests and the security staff putting the kettle on in the CCTV suite.

But if the aim of this programme was to strip away the glitz of airline life and show the true slog of hard work which goes on at airports then it succeeded too well, for all the colour seemed to have been sucked from this film.

The first half was clogged with footage which seemed to have been lifted from a training video, some kind of 'Induction To Edinburgh Airport' for school-leavers in their first job perhaps. Baggage handlers took the film crew in amongst the tracks and rollers where the luggage is processed and showed how a jam can occur and how it would be detected and cleared, then we saw the front desk staff helping customers navigate the new self check-in terminals. I expected a manager to come on screen with a clipboard and say we would now break for lunch, after which we'd reconvene to discuss health and safety and what to do in case of fire.

It honestly felt like watching a corporate video, and this feeling was compounded with management talking directly to camera about expansion and marketing and footfall and revenue. For the first time in writing this column I felt bored with the programme I'd chosen.

This all changed in the second half when the film suddenly jerked into life. The focus moved away from management-speak about profit and pie charts and started dealing with the passengers. This is where things finally got interesting, as these were people who were stressed or tired or excitable and didn't have the nagging concern of projecting a glossy, PR-caressed image of the airport.

Certainly, the passengers saved this documentary. One of the best scenes involved Liam, a teenage boy with severe autism. His mum was trying to take him on holiday but he had a terrible fear of loud noise and of having to climb staircases where a gap showed between the steps. Getting him onboard the plane was going to be a careful and slow process. The camera followed discreetly at his back as his mum, brave and patient, took his arm and, together with an airport helper who allowed them special access ahead of the crowds, escorted him up the windy steps to the plane.

Watching this sad and delicate operation was far better television than the earlier parade of men in suits, and the film would have been greatly improved if the corporate blethers had been trimmed back, but perhaps that was a condition of being allowed to film in the airport?

The programme certainly took a while to become interesting but I will tune in again as the clip of next week's episode seemed more promising with footage of a Boeing 737 Quick Convertible being altered on the runway. This will be required viewing for any aviation buffs out there because, so far, this has an airport documentary with almost zero mention of planes.

So it seemed Edinburgh Airport had a chance here to charm everyone but this first episode never really took off and so it was Glasgow who stole the limelight with the recent arrival of the A380. Glasgow steals the show and Edinburgh sits back grumbling that we'll have had our planes.

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