This is an actual conversation I had tonight with a United Airlines gate agent (GA).
Me: Hi, I’m on the flight to Austin, and it looks like it keeps getting delayed.
GA (looks at my boarding pass, then at her screen, calls up the flight. Let’s see… it looks like that flight is… delayed. It’s going to be here about 8:19 p.m.
Me (unsure if she heard me right): Um, yes. So… I was wondering if it would be better if I tried to get back on my original flight.
GA (more typing and clicking): No, there is no availability.
Me: Huh. Interesting. There were 25 open seats this afternoon. Oh well, I guess I’ll just wait it out then.
GA (clicking around): There’s another flight going through Houston, arriving around 1 a.m.
Me (watching her come dangerously close to clicking on some booking links): Oh, that’s okay. It’s definitely better just to sit tight. Incidentally, do you know when the computer processes upgrades?
GA (frowning, clicking furiously): Hang on, I’ll see.
Me: Okay. See, there are 3 open seats, and I’m second on the upgrade list, so I was just curious when the system processed the upgrades.
GA (calling up my ticket): There are no upgrades available.
Me: No, I mean, I’m second on the upgrade list.
GA (shaking her head): It’s going to cost you 15,000 miles to get on the upgrade list.
Me: No, I’m already on the list.
GA: Oh, you’re already on the list? (clicking to get back to the flight list)
Me: Yes. See? That’s me (pointing to my name which was, as I said, second on the list). I was just wondering when it gets processed.
GA: If there’s room, then the system will give you an upgrade.
Me: Yes, I know. I mean, there are three open seats, and I’m second on the list.
GA: Oh, so then the system will likely give you an upgrade.
Me: Yes, right. I mean, I understand. I was just curious as to when.
GA (starting to make hand motions to illustrate her point): When it comes time to issue it, the computer will give you the upgrade to one of these three seats (she points to the seat layout of the plane).
Me (not sure how to end the conversation now): But we don’t know when that happens?
GA: Oh, before you board.
Me (seeing an out): Okay, thank you.
GA (smiling): Glad to be of help!