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The Gatekeepers

Airline agents are the key to upgrades and choice seating.

Entrepreneur magazine, February 2000

It pays to be nice to gate agents. Perhaps more than any other airline employees, the folks at check-in have broad powers to make your flight magnificent. Or miserable.

In the frantic hour or so between check-in and boarding, gate agents are practically all-powerful. They can upgrade you, downgrade you and even remove you from a flight, often at their whim.

"When someone rubs you the wrong way, you stick them in the back of the plane between Big Bertha and Andre the Giant," admits former gate agent Tim Rivers.

Are gate agents allowed to punish passengers they don't like and reward the ones they do? Not really. At US Airways, for example, gate agents are trained to "treat every passenger equally," says spokesman David Castelveter. "Every employee goes through training that tells them how to treat a passenger professionally, regardless of the circumstances. It precludes any emotional response."

Maybe so, but we're still betting you'll have a better trip if you treat gate agents nicely.

Christopher Elliott is a writer in Annapolis, Maryland. Contact him at http://www.elliott.org.

Christopher Elliott is an Orlando, Fla., writer and independent producer who specializes in technology, travel and mobile computing. His work has appeared in numerous newspapers, magazines and online. You can find out more about him on his website or sign up for his free weekly newsletter.

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