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The Gatekeepers

Airline agents are the key to upgrades and choice seating.
- Magazine Contributor
1 min read

This story appears in the February 2000 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

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.