As noted, not all passengers are equal even in economy (coach) class. Airline ticket pricing is extremely complicated and non-standard. Many companies pay a premium so that even their economy class employees can change tickets on a whim for no extra fee but those tickets have a premium price built into them to begin with. Then there are the frequent fliers at different levels most commonly termed Silver, Gold, and Platinum in that order but there are lots of variations. If you are a Platinum member, you will get on a flight of your choice and usually be granted a first class seat even if they have to offer real money to kick someone else off the flight. Frequent fliers also commonly get to use dedicated lounges with free or discounted drinks and food in a quiet bar like setting rather than suffering with the masses.
In short, it is all pay for play and it depends heavily on whether you are willing to use a particular airline enough for them to accommodate your wishes for the year or if you are willing to pay more than the average so that they give you preference when things go wrong. It is capitalism at its best.
However, it doesn’t always cost money to get treated well. I took a nightmare trip to try to get to see my parents years ago for Christmas. Weather was about to cause the whole idea to be canceled by forces of nature but I was young and attractive so the agents found a way to make it work by flying me all over the place to avoid the storm. It took 2 days, 3 airlines, comped hotel stays and a lot of free food but I did get there by Christmas morning. Agents have a lot of discretionary power to make things happen and it really helps if you treat them well and dress nicely.