Southwest's ability to purchase fuel future's is what is keeping the airline profitable and flying high. If they had to pay the same fuel costs as the other airlines they would be losing more money then American, Delta or United. Once their fuel price futures run out in 2007 they will either have had to restructure or they will be in serious trouble. Their employee pay structure is the highest in the industry and hopefully they will be able to retain that for their employees or they will have to take pay cuts like the other airline employees and pilots have had to do.
In regard to judging Southwest in regard to the A&E show Airline is like judging Miss American on how she looks when she wakes up in the morning. The show is looking for every negative incident or positive incident to highlight. It would be pretty boring television to sit at the gate and show the thousands of passengers per day that board the planes with no issues. You'll see the same things on all airlines.
I do enjoy seeing some of the misinformation that gate attendants do tell people when there are problems. However I have heard the same things from ground staff on all airlines. "If it's a mechanical problem we don't compensate you." "It's FAA regulation that you can't take an animal on board."