When I try to do an online check-in for my next flight, why are so many seats marked “unavailable” even when I log in as soon as online check-in opens?
Airlines allocate seats in different ways.
Many leading carriers give preference to their gold and platinum level frequent flyers and those with status credits.
The most desirable seats might already be reserved for them, and they will often be able to choose a seat when they make their booking.
Many corporate booking agents can also reserve seats before general online booking becomes available.
Emergency exit row seats with that highly desirable extra legroom are rarely available for online check-in.
These seats are frequently sold or else allocated at the check-in desk to flyers deemed fit and suitable to carry out evacuation procedures should that become necessary.
Bulkhead seats are often reserved for families when there is a facility for a bassinet in front.
It has become common practice for airlines to charge a fee for preferential seating, one of the supplementary revenue streams that have become crucial to the industry. These seats can also be assigned before online check-in begins.
If you want a better seat and you don’t have the leverage of high level frequent flyer status, be prepared to stick your hand in your pocket.
If you count on getting for free what others are prepared to pay for, you might find yourself sitting in the middle row, back of the cabin and close to the toilets.