Earlier today I wrote about married segments, attempting to explain them, their purpose, and how to use them to your advantage.
Just like in real life, however, sometimes marriage is not the answer. While married segments and “direct flights” are designed to be advantageous to those booking them, staying single has it perks.
Married segments and “direct” flights are two different things. Married segments can be any combination of flights that are priced as one unit and cannot be broken into two pieces. On the other hand, “direct” flights are two or more segments sold as a “direct” (not non-stop) flight under a single flight number. It is also difficult to break up these segments.
United Domestic Married Segments
Here’s an example of married segments leading to less award space and not more–
I tried booking Providence, RI to Los Angeles together and found only standard award space at 25K one-way. But when looking at each segment separately, I found there was saver space on each flight.
The 25K does not come from adding those two legs together, because one is 10K and the other is 12.5K. On other days, both segments together are 12.5K–
In theory, there should be no reason why my flights above also do not price as 12.5K miles combined. This is the price of a Lower-48 award on United.
The point of this is illustrative. With United’s new award rule changes, booking each segment separately is now no longer an easy option — each segment is priced separately. UNLESS, you find an agent who who is willing to manually price or use the old system, you may see the saver space on both segments but will not be able to combine it. Manipulation of the website is no longer possible.
When you run into this situation, try booking one segment first. After rececving confirmation, call back in to add the second segment. This will be easier than trying to book the entire reservation over the phone. The new system is ironically better at adding segments than repricing awards.
Below is a trick that is more useful.
How I Scored a Business Class Award Seat to New Zealand
An Award Expert client needed to get from Los Angeles to Auckland with his AA miles and of course AA wanted over 300K one-way in business class. American does not allow routings via Asia or Hawaii on single award, so that meant Air Tahiti Nui or Fiji Airways.
Air Tahiti Nui markets a “direct” flight, TN101, to Auckland that makes a ground stop in Papeete. On many occasions, I have seen space on this flight but not on the LAX to PPT leg that bears the same flight number.
When booking in advance it is not overly difficult to find award space on this carrier, but this ticket was for March. Using ExpertFlyer, I saw no space on the direct flight.
But upon checking the individual segments of this “direct” flight, I found one business class award seat to PPT and five to AKL:
Why? Presumably because those seats were intended for local traffic. But that did not stop me from calling AA and successfully reserving a seat on each flight. The agent was a bit puzzled, “Let’s see, you want to connect from TN101 to TN101? Isn’t that the same flight?” Yes and no.
While married segments and so-called direct flights can often work to your advantage, sometimes it is best to book each segment separately. When searching for award or revenue space, always search origin to destination *and* segment by segment before booking. Customized award routes can lead to tremendous savings.