My guess is they overbooked. You will be able to get a ticket once you check in at the airport but it may not have a seat assigned. Once you have that ticket go up to the ticket/terminal counter (past security) EARLY and tell them that you have to be on this flight. They should assign you a ticket. Then they'll do the we are overbooked will does anyone want a voucher for a later flight deal. If nobody takes it they will call up the last ones to book, but since you told them you need to be on the flight it wont be you.
would i do this at my first airport, or would i have to try to do this in dallas?
God it would suck so much to get stuck in dallas thanks to overbooking.
The second leg is always a crap shoot b/c of delays and things of that nature, but they should assign you a seat for the second flight at the same time when your first seat/ticket is assigned.
Unfortuantely, I think it's becoming more and more common to wait to assign the second leg of a trip. It seems I get this happening more commonly when I have a long day of traveling ahead of me and the second/third leg isn't until way later, but I've had it happen several times.
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