Q. I just did advanced check-in on US Airways, 20 hours ahead of departure, from my home computer. I could select seats on the first leg of my trip, but not the connecting flight. Only a few "premium seats" at $10 and"emergency row" seats."  When I tried to select one of the latter, I got a note that they were only available for “premium” frequent flyers.  So I forked over $10, but does this mean I would not have gotten a seat without paying on this flight, for which I made a reservation a month ago?  Or would they give me a free seat on check in.

A. Many airlines these days are holding back “choice” seats, for their best customers, when consumers buy their flights. It doesn’t mean that you won’t get a seat, unless the flight is oversold and there aren’t enough volunteers to take another flight (involuntary bumping). You’d get a seat alright, but it’s either going to be a middle seat at the back of the plane, or it could be one of those premium seats for which there were no eligible takers. Do airlines do this in part to snooker passengers into paying for a seat they’d get free anyway? Very possibly.

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