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Recently I took a trip from my hometown of Cincinnati to visit family in the Houston area. While my return flight was not nearly as crazy as my outbound flight (which featured running through the airport and a drunk seatmate), it was not without a bit of drama as well.

“See Agent” on a boarding pass

We were flying a nonstop flight from Houston to Cincinnati on United Airlines, and we checked in 24 hours before our flight was set to depart. Our flight was on a Saturday evening so we checked in Friday night. When we checked in, we did not get a seat assignment. Instead, our boarding passes both said “See Agent”

I wasn’t quite sure what “See agent” on a boarding pass actually meant. I mean of course I understood that we didn’t yet have seats, but I wasn’t sure if we were at risk of being bumped and/or not being able to fly.

Is my flight oversold?

My first thought was that the flight was oversold. I’ve been bumped before (including $1000 for a bump on Delta) and I wasn’t necessarily opposed to getting bumped. We had a few things going on on Sunday but nothing super urgent. And since there were 2 of us, I was already getting visions of a big payday 🙂

Looking at the seat map for the flight, there WERE still seats available, but they were all premium seats (either exit row, extra leg room or other preferred seating). I also checked on Google Flights and they were still selling tickets for this flight.

(SEE ALSO: 6 reasons Google flights is the BEST flight search engine)

It seemed strange to me that United would still be actively selling seats on a plane that they knew was already oversold, but I suppose stranger things have happened.

Getting seats

We didn’t hear anything through most of Saturday and so we prepared to head to the airport a bit early (having maybe learned our lesson from last time?). We were planning on stopping by the Cadillac Mexican IAH Priority Pass restaurant, but wanted to stop by our gate first to see the agent, just to make sure that everything was squared away. We also figured that would be a good time to volunteer if the flight actually was oversold.

But as we were on the way to the airport, I got a notification that our seat assignments had been updated. Sure enough, when I looked in the United app, our seats had been assigned.

Feeling good about our chances of making the flight, we stopped by the restaurant first and had a bit of dinner. When we got over to our gate (going all the way from Terminal A to Terminal E), I figured I would stop by the agent just to make sure. I was 95% sure that we no longer had to see an agent because of our boarding pass but I figured I would check. As expected, she looked at me with a look like “why are you even here” and it was all fine.

The flight was great and we were even seated together.

Why You Get “See Agent” on a Boarding Pass

If you get “See agent” on your boarding pass, there can be a number of reasons that might happen. In looking at other experiences people shared online about getting “See Agent” on a boarding pass (especially a United boarding pass), it often happens when all of the “regular” seats are claimed. United (and likely many other airlines) hold back seats to either entice people to pay extra for preferred seating or to try and seat families together if possible.

Here are a few other reasons you might get “See Agent” on a boarding pass

  • One might be because the flight is oversold.
  • Another possibility is if you’re flying standby, it’s possible that you’ll need to wait to see who checks in to see if you get a seat
  • If you’re flying internationally, the agent may need to verify travel documents like passports or visas
  • Or, as it happened in our case, some seats are held back for control by the airport gate agent and there’s nothing you need to do.

The Bottom Line

If your boarding pass has “See agent” on it, there can be a couple of reasons that might happen. It might be that your flight is oversold, or the agent needs to verify travel documents. Still, if you have a verified seat (i.e. you are not flying standby), the odds are good that “See Agent” is not a big deal. Hopefully your experience will be like mine where you get a seat assignment a few hours before the flight is scheduled to depart. If not, make sure and leave extra time to head to the airport and talk with the gate agent before your flight.

Have you ever had “See agent” on your boarding pass? Was your resolution as drama-free as mine? Leave a note with your story in the comments

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