I love helping people when it comes to travel but to be honest, it can get a bit tiring explaining the same concept to multiple people, which is one of the reasons I started this blog. With that being said, I’m still willing to help you if you have an issue but nothing makes me happier than when a reader takes the initiative and uses the resources available to them to book their dream vacation.
PointsNerd readers Lorraine and John wrote me a great email the other day and I wanted to share their experience (with their permission of course):
John and I wanted to send you a personal thank you for this incredible blog and for your generosity in sharing your wealth of knowledge. We are happy to report that we booked our very first trip using the tips you’ve shared throughout your blog. We signed up for various credit cards, “maximized our points” and within 4 months had enough points for 2 adults (and 1 infant) to travel business from Calgary to Malaga, then Barcelona back to Calgary. We thought you might appreciate knowing some of the details. Thanks to your Finding Award Availability series, we found seats from YYC-YUL on Air Canada, YUL-ZRH and ZRH-AGP on Swiss, then BCN-IST and IST-YYZ on Turkish Airlines, and finally YYZ-YYC on Air Canada. All segments are booked on business class except our YYZ-YYC leg (but we are hoping to upgrade if seats become available). And the best part is that our cost including the additional infant and call center booking fee was $500, a real steal!
We also wanted to share something we learned during this process. When I called Aeroplan to book these flights, the agent informed me that the YUL-ZRH flight was not available and the only days I could take this flight was 4 days earlier or later, which would have really messed up our plans. I told him that I was using the Award.flights app to check and it was clear that both J and Y classes were available for this flight. He then informed me that this app was mistaken and that the flight was unavailable. This had me scrambling as we had already waited an hour to speak to an agent. Fortunately, the agent checked again and this time he used the search YUL-AGP and sure enough the YUL-ZRH flight was available. I’m sure you probably already know this, but we were surprised to know that the YUL-ZRH flight was only available if we were using it as a connector.
We are extremely excited for this trip (and especially excited to visit the CIP lounge in Istanbul where we have a 6h layover). Thank you for introducing us to the world of travel hacking. Hopefully, this will be the first of many travel hacked trips.
Lorraine and John (and Annabelle)
I was BLOWN AWAY when I read this because it’s the first time that I have heard from a reader in this much detail and on top of everything, the routing that Lorrain and John describe is something that I would book for my own family!
Now Lorraine and John touched on a subject that is not well understood by even the most seasoned travel hacker … myself included.
I will first say that what Lorraine and John ran into is unlikely a married segment issue because I know many friends and colleagues that have been able to find and book the YUL-ZRH routing on Swiss (LX). I personally believe that what Lorraine and John ran into was an inexperienced agent and man … that can be frustrating especially because of Aeroplan’s ridiculously long hold times.
In my experience, the best thing to do in their situation is to politely ask the agent to try again and use terms like “you might be able to find it under LX773” or “that’s weird, I see it on my Aeroplan screen as bookable” or “is there any way we could try to resolve this with the help of a supervisor?”.
WHAT IS A MARRIED SEGMENT
Married segments are routes that cannot be booked individually but can be booked together. If Lorraine and John had a married segment issue, it would mean that they could fly YUL-ZRH-AGP but could not fly YUL-ZRH on its own, even though it was part of the itinerary.
Married segments can occur on award bookings as well as revenue bookings.
WHY DO MARRIED SEGMENTS EXIST?
Let’s be clear here. I do not believe either Air Canada or Swiss do this but if they did, there could be multiple reasons why they might. The most likely one is that they may see healthy loads to one destination and would rather increase their foothold in another location. For example, Swiss Air may see plenty of revenue and award redemptions from Montreal to Zurich so they could decide to make that routing unattractive. Rather, they may tempt their customers to fly to Malaga (AGP) by making cheaper revenue seats and award seat available.
This is one of the reasons why Hidden City Ticketing exists.
I personally have flown a Hidden City Ticket from Calgary to Toronto to New York (YYC-YYZ-LGA) and gotten off in Toronto because the ticket price was MUCH cheaper to New York than it was to Toronto.
The only logical explanation for this is that the airline saw plenty of demand for the Calgary-Toronto market and thus kept pricing high but had a dip in demand for the Calgary-New York route and purposefully decreased the cost of the flight even though it was a further distance than the Calgary-Toronto leg. This may be in an attempt to demonstrate to shareholders that their network expansion plans have been successful but that’s pure speculation.
CAN YOU DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT?
The short answer here is no. If an airline makes the route a married segment, you can either book the route or find alternative travel. If the married segment exists and the last leg is something you don’t want to fly, you could theoretically skip it like I did my YYZ-LGA leg. That being said, there are some things you should keep in mind:
- You can’t do this if you have checked luggage
- You may be violating the Terms and Conditions of the airline and could thus have your loyalty membership revoked
- If you have IRROPs (irregular operation – you miss a connection due to weather for example), the airline may route you somewhere you don’t want to go.
HOW WILL I KNOW?
Well, unless you are doing this all day every day … it’s often difficult to even know you are being affected. I have personally never seen married segment logic being used for Aeroplan redemptions but because you don’t know what you don’t know, I could have very easily been affected.
Just because you didn’t notice a snowball fly by your head doesn’t mean that someone wasn’t trying to hit you.
Rather than worry about it, go about your award searches like you normally would.
WHY I DON’T THINK LORRAINE AND JOHN SAW A MARRIED SEGMENT
Lorraine and John used Award.Flights to look for their route and searched segment by segment just like I advocate. When you use Award.Flights, you are actually logging into Aeroplan and searching as if you are on the site. This means that if the route showed up in the results, you could recreate the result on the site itself and book the segment.
Now there is a possibility that a flight can show up and be unbookable but that’s known as Phantom Space. This was the case in the past where Swiss First Class showed up as bookable but save for the lucky few, was turned out that you could not book the award.
Maybe I’m Wrong?
I’ve been doing this for a while but I’m completely open to the possibility that I am completely out to lunch here. If you have had experience with married segments with Aeroplan redemptions or any other loyalty program, I would love to hear from you. Let me know in the comments below.