Leda says you pegged it.
Thanks, both of ya. I will say to anyone reading this: meet the airline people half way and you will be amazed what they'll do for you. Remember that they're human too, they're not your serfs or slaves any more than you should be nobody to them. I am always astonished at the abuse and contumely heaped on line folks, especially gate agents.
Yes, the gate agent really DOESN'T know why your plane is late. If there is a mechanical problem, even the pilots and the mechanic might not know what it is yet. If they do, they migyht be to busy troubleshooting it to tell her (And then, they have to check the MEL to see if it's something that they can defer for maintenance later, or have to fix before flying). Many systems on a modern jet need to be working 100% to ensure a safe and comfortable flight. You can drive your car without the climate control working, but a jetliner goes where it's 60 below outside on every flight -- the heater better be online. Not to mention all those knobs and gages and screens they give us pilots to play with so we don't get bored.
Yes, your crew really does have to hang it up when they go outside of crew rest "even by a minute." It's the law (and it's the law because some bright spark figured out exhausted pilots are not safe. It may seem arbitrary but it's so YOU CAN BE SAFE).
Finally, I don't understand the issue with a separated family. I travel alone a lot, and traveling revenue or not I will ALWAYS volunteer to trade seats so that a family can sit together. I bet most of you would do the same. Maybe the family didn't think to ask (it doesn't sound like they're the sort of people anyone would want to sit near). If you see this situation and don't mind moving, speak up (some families say no cause they've had a belly full of togetherness by the time they're headed home from gran'ma's).
These days, most airliners are full; that's because the only thing that matters to travelers is the lowest fare, and margins are wafer-thin, so they jam the seats full. Get used to it (or get rich and fly charter, but you won't get the family from Boston to FL round trip for $200 a seat). It's incumbent on all to behave in the public space that is an airliner cabin. Unfortunately, we have a generation, the children of the self-absorbed boomers, who never learned deportment but instead grew up bursting with entitlement and overflowing with unmerited self-esteem.
In that context, absolutely no surprise that these Meathead Parents of the Year think they need to sue. The bigger a jerk you are, the more likely you have a lawyer on speed dial.
Criminal Number 18F