So it was shaping up to be a bad morning on AA144 today. I booked a couple of weeks ago and it was already F4/A2 at 2 weeks out, with all the other IAD-LAX nonstops <F2 +/- one day. X upgrade looked very unlikely. And I *had* to make the trip. Flight went F0 yesterday. TSA was worse than usual this morning. And the underground trains at IAD were screwed up. The flights through DFW had cancelled this morning, so even more likely that 144 would be way overbooked. Really bad start. Checked in at the AC - the Aangel said "not looking good - I saw you on the list this morning and already checked. 2 ahead of you, 12 of 16 checked in and we're 90 minutes from flight time". As I was leaving she told me to check at the gate, but it looked like F had checked in full. At gate, I was #2 with "one seat open" - oh, and flight was running 15-20 minutes late. Waiting to board and chatting with the folks in line with me, I was surprised when I was called to the podium & given a seat in Row 6. That wasn't even the "open seat" based on the seat maps. The day improved very quickly. As we settled in, the woman next to me explained that her BF had that seat and was checked-in, but had a work emergency at the last minute so he didn't show. He canceled out just a few minutes before departure. To top it off, the wonderful WAS-based FAs were working the flight (some of AA's best!) and took very good care of us. AND we got an ATC reroute that made up for the departure delay.