Complicated topics explained in a simple way: What is a ‘married segment’ and how is it related to the terms ‘stopover’ and ‘connection’?
A question on my blog post “What Is a Passenger Service System?” made me realize there are still a few terms which are not explained in a simple way on the internet. While there are tons of suggestions what agents can do to take advantage of ‘married segments’, I couldn’t find it explained in a simple way. Hence, I just wrote a dummy article about it.
Blog series: Travel Technology for Dummies
Per definition, ‘married segment’ logic allows participating carriers to control their flight inventory. When air segments are booked, a marriage can be established by the airline between two or more segments, requiring them to be processed as a unit. Individual segments within a marriage cannot be priced or ticketed separately.
Two flights – one unit
The term ‘married segment’ is used by airlines to view inventory of two or more segments of an origin and destination as one instead of individual legs. For instance, Miami (MIA) to Los Angeles (LAX) can be a direct flight (non-stop), or one can e.g. connect in Houston (IAH). For the latter, these are two segments: MIA-IAH and IAH-LAX. Now, these two segments can be married or not. If they are married, it means that unlike no-fault divorce, it is extremely rare to successfully break those ‘married segments’ and for example add a day in Houston to visit the space center.
The reason is that the middle city (in this case Houston) is most likely a hub of one airline (in this case United), which means that this airline can ‘control’ the market for flights with a destination (or stopover) of this city (in this example Houston). While in this example United competes with American on a flight from MIA to LAX, and hence need to provide competitive fares for travelers who take the burden of a connecting flight (meaning getting out of an airplane and catching another one). In many cases travelers who just want to fly from Miami to Houston may end up paying more to United than people flying through Houston to Los Angeles. Smart people (or agents) obviously came up with booking MIA-LAX at the cheaper rate and then breaking apart the second leg (IAH-LAX), probably even abandoning that leg; hence airlines needed to come up with a concept to allow such a break-up only with huge penalties or do not allow such a break-up at all. This led to the term ‘married segments’.
This applies to any connections to hub airports: MIA-FRA-MUC may be cheaper than MIA-FRA on Lufthansa, MIA-ATL to anywhere may be cheaper than MIA-ATL on Delta and so on.
Why ‘no show’ is a bad idea
So, now one may think, maybe just get out of the aircraft after the first leg and no show to the second leg. This is not a good idea if you still have a return flight, as on this no show all future segments will be cancelled (and you won’t get a refund). If it is just a one-way (or the last leg of a journey), I still wouldn’t do it, when I can avoid it. The one time I did not show on my last leg from New York to Miami, as I had a last-minute meeting which came in while I was already in the air somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean with a scheduled connection in New York, I had a bad experience: prior to the flight which I then actually took the following day, in addition to the premium I paid for the one-way, I was searched to the bone by TSA. Not that I’m saying it was connected, but the coincidence was just ‘very interesting’.
Some more related terms
The term ‘married segment’ can be viewed tightly connected to the terms ‘stopover’ and ‘connection’:
- A stopover is a point where the passenger breaks his journey and is scheduled to depart later than 24 hours (for international journeys), 6 hours (Central America or Panama domestic journeys) or 4 hours (North American domestic journeys) after arrival (local time). A stopover is arranged in advance and specified on the passenger ticket. Considering a specific intermediate point as a stopover or a no stopover point is defined in the fare rules of the applicable fare. If the fare allows a stopover at a specific intermediate point, you can depart any time later than the 24/6/4 hours. Sometimes fares do allow stopovers for an additional charge. But even if the fare allows a stopover without an additional charge, making use of the stopover (staying longer than 24/6/4 hours) will make you liable for the airport taxes and fees of the stopover city.
- A point where the passengers arrives and departs within 24/6/4 hours (see explanation above) is a ‘no stopover’ – sometimes called (transfer-) connection or connecting point. A connection means that your baggage is checked through to your final destination (so you cannot get your bags at the connecting airport) and you are not supposed to leave the connecting airport. So, essentially all the ‘married segments’ described above are connections.
- The term ‘layover’ is not so common in air travel, but it is a term in scheduled transportation defined as a point where a vehicle stops, with passengers possibly changing vehicles. In public transit, this typically takes a few minutes at a trip terminal.
- In air travel, also the terms ‘stop’ or ‘transfer’ are used. A stop is considered a stop of an aircraft at an airport where you do not have to change aircraft (not to be confused with stopover) while with a transfer you change airplanes. Both are considered to be a layover or connection depending on the time a passenger arrives and departs.
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