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To sell the seat? If they tell the customer "Well, we're not sure if you have a seat, go ask the gate agent", then some customers will not want to bother and will cancel or change their flight -- so the airline goes from an overbooking situation to an underbooking situation, which costs the airline money.

Well I have checked in on oversold flights before but never has a check in agent ever told me "don't worry about it, you'll get a seat for sure" - they have always been honest about how the process will work at the gate and usually give me a decent guess at the likelihood that I'll get a seat, offer to rebook (usually you have to ask to have them look for flights on other carriers, but they are required to do that if possible), but they usually can't offer as many incentives (miles, vouchers) there like they can at the gate. What this check in agent is claiming to do on Air Canadas behalf just sounds unnecessarily cruel.

I did get that assurance once, but I was flying to see a family member in the ICU at Christmas. Can’t recall now if they asked for volunteers but I do recall the complete lack of wiggle words calmed me down.

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