a map of the world

Sunday Reader Question: What are married segments?

Sometimes when you’re searching for award space, be it on Aeroplan, United, Delta, etc., you’ll find that some seats will show as available when you search for them from origin to destination, but when you call to book the flights segment-by-segment, those flights show as unavailable. Often, this is caused by married segment logic. Today’s Sunday Reader Question is: what are married segments?

The quick answer is: “the bane of my existence” (second to phantom availability). Married segment logic is a tool used by airlines that restricts availability based on origin and destination, rather than by segments. For example, say you search Toronto – Delhi (this is a fictitious example). When you search on Aeroplan or United’s website, you’ll find availability, say on United via Newark. You can book this without any issues.

Screen Shot 2015-07-05 at 10.52.02 AM

Say your actual trip is Toronto-Newark-Delhi-Colombo. You just searched Toronto – Delhi to find the award space on United, and your intent is to attach an Air India segment from Delhi to Colombo. You find all the award inventory and go to call and book. You feed your flights individually to the agent. To your surprise, the agent says Newark-Delhi is unavailable. What? You see it right on your screen! What’s happening is married segment logic is being applied.

Screen Shot 2015-07-05 at 10.52.15 AM

Married segment logic controls routings based on origin and destination, rather than segment-by-segment availability. In our example, revenue management for United has decided they want Toronto – Delhi via Newark to be available as an award, but they don’t want a different origin or destination (in our example, changing Delhi as destination to Colombo, even though it’s the exact same flights as the Toronto – Delhi itinerary). To get around this, instruct the agent to do a normal search for Toronto – Delhi, and then manually add the Delhi – Colombo segment. This should validate, at least for Aeroplan.

Screen Shot 2015-07-05 at 10.52.08 AM

For other programs, like Delta Skymiles, it’s not this easy. If you find a willing supervisor, it usually requires a manual override for married segments.

Luckily with Aeroplan, if you give proper instruction to the telephone agent, you can bypass married segment restrictions. However, you have to learn to recognize when married segment logic is being applied, and how to provide instruction to the agent to bypass it.

Would you rather someone else deal with this for you? Awarding Canada offers award booking services.


  1. There is another similar, but different, phenomenon. Sometimes there are “married seats”. Example: I was booking SN flight using Aeroplan miles, and two seats were available BRU-JFK. As soon as one seat is taken, the other disappears as well. One seat is released back, two go back into award inventory. You can book two seats on one booking, but if you have to do two separate bookings, then you won’t be able to get two seats. Interesting, huh?

  2. Hi ! I see with Aeroplan availability from JFK-GVA-ZRH, but no for JFK-GVA, as you well explained this seems to be a married segment logic example.
    You say you can bypass this with Aeroplan on the phone (I’ll be booking a miniRTW), could you please tell me what you mean other than feeding them the exact flights?
    I intend to do: YUL-LGA,JFK-GVA-ZRH-CPH-BRU-BOM-SIN-MEL (MPM is verified), and then MEL back home. It’d be awesome if I can manage to use only JFK-GVA since it would allow me to use ZRH with other routes, but now after reading your article I am even wondering if my routing would even work as it is now… will they be like “I don’t see JFK-GVA-ZRH” because I’m adding other flights before and after ?

    Thank you in advance !

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *