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Airlines change my reserved seat without consent

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In the past year I have arrived at the airport for my scheduled flight to find out that the airline has changed my seat reservation without my consent. This has occurred 3 times, once each on Jet Blue, Delta and Continental. Everytime it has been a change I was not happy with; aisle to center seat or forward row to rear row. With these full flights, late changes are almost impossible to come by. The ticket agents act as if it is no big deal as they inform me there is nothing they can do.

Does anyone have a safeguard for this or suggestions to proactively stop it from happening? I have an upcoming 12 hour United flight and I like my seat resv, if it is still intact!

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