In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m working on clearing out some of the Ask Cranky question that have been piling up for awhile here. This is a great question that has probably confused people for ages. I’ll give my best answer, but I encourage customer service reps to chime in if things are different at their airline.

When I get saddled with a middle seat on a transatlantic or other long flight, my 6 foot 1 inch, 225 pound frame starts to ache before I even go through security. When I beg at check-in for a better seat assignment, why are they powerless? They always tell me to see the “gate agent” which, sometimes, is the exact same person. Is it because once the flight has closed they will have a better sense of what they can do?

Derrick M

There can be a couple of reasons why a ticket counter agent would push you off to the gate agent, one sensible and one obnoxious. Fortunately, the sensible one is far more likely.

Just think about what goes into getting a flight out from the perspective of a gate agent. Up until the day of the flight, some people have chosen seats Ask Crankywhile others have not. Airlines will usually hold back a chunk of seats for the day of departure anyway, so many people can’t get seats in advance even if they tried. Then of course there are the seats that are held back for elite members. Those same elite members are likely to get upgraded, so the seats in coach can become available when they get moved up to the pointy end up of the plane.

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  • Cranky Flier

    My name is Brett, and I’m an airline dork. I’ve had the bug since I was young. As a kid, I never missed a chance to go to LAX a…

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