Travel Technology for Dummies: What Is a ‘Married Segment’?

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.

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.


Picture credit: cunaplus / shutterstock

This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. Michael Strauss
    Michael Strauss

    Wow – thank you so much for your input, Nik. This is interesting reading .. not the straight forward case but very informative nonetheless. So, in other words goodwill and the presence of certain provider avoid even more bags left/lost in transit. Amazing – Your comment should be Apple’s marketing story for their AirTags!

  2. Michael Strauss
    Michael Strauss

    Dear Nik,

    Many thanks for the excessive explanation. I did not see this all under the term married segment, but in any case it is a very interesting explanation. I know that we have a whole page in our internal knowledge base dedicated to a feature we call “Air Combined One Ways” to address the concern of our clients (agencies) to always check if two one ways are possibly cheaper than a round-trip. In this case we will book the two one ways and manage the booking as one in our system (Extrakt: The combined one ways feature allows us to combine airlines from the GDS (network carrier) with low-cost carriers from another source and immediately see the total price for the return flight. In addition, this feature provides a wider choice of flights and fares than a “normal” fare query provides. The reason lies in the logic of the (GDS) pricing tools which always return only a certain section of flights and fares. The traveler thus gets significantly more flights and thus considerably more fares to choose from.)
    Thanks again,
    Michael

  3. Avatar
    Nicolay Natchev

    Dear Michael,
    I will allow myself to comment also on this one. Basically for the kind of journeys in question (transfer within a short connection between 2 carriers not having an interline) there are 2 possible types of purchase or ticketing :
    1. self connecting passengers with 2 separate tickets independently for each carriers.
    2. As both airlines may have an Interline with a third airline , which of we may use the stock to issue the entire journey on one ticket with a total price the sum of the 2 legs, each of which being considered as a fare component and not a pricing unit. This means no trough fare, but just an accumulation of the fares of the 2 carriers with their own conditions of carriage attached. This is a relatively rare practice, but yet around 6% of the entire scheduled traffic and is not be completely forgotten either i believe.
    In both cases though and depending of some few other factors, such as the DCS (Departure Control System) provider, the airports connectivity provider, the handling agents in the respective airports, the operating airlines conditions, their consideration for IATA rules and guidelines and least but not last the person behind the check-in counter and how good he/she slept the night before, you still can send the luggage to the final destination of the passenger. It is however important to make the difference between “sending the luggage and “checking -in”the bag. The fact that a bag tag with the final destination and the necessary data for the second carrier’s flight is imprinted and attached to the bag in question, doesn’t necessarily mean it will be honoured and accepted for transportation by the next carrier. The passenger will most probably have to contact the second carrier at the transfer airport to re-confirm the existence and ownership of such a bag being transferred from another plane. This is usually done as a matter of good will of the first airline to facilitate the passenger not having to pick the luggage up and checking it again and to save airport procedures to the handling ground staff at the transfer airport. Also the almost exclusive connectivity provider and leader in baggage handling is SITA which is practically everywhere and almost in every airport in the world, so the participant carriers receive information about baggage regardless of their IATA (or any other) organisation membership. As a matter of fact there is a convention for the luggage and airline liability adopted by ICAO (United Nations structure in charge for Worldwide conformity in the aviation industry), which encourages all the airlines to cooperate in matters of luggage handling and despite the fact if they have interline or any kind of contracted relationship as a part of the adopted service and liability standards on Government levels. So the luggage here will not be the point for consideration if this is a transit or a stopover, whichever it is in such a case the relevance will be insignificant as it usually matters for the price of the ticket when using a trough fare (including just one airline or several interline participants).

    Kind Regards
    Nik

  4. Avatar
    Nicolay Natchev

    Dear Michael,
    First of all i would like to thank you for your work and the opportunity all we readers, have to picture the insides of the travel industry with such simplicity and precision. I am really impressed and thank God people like you exist that put the dreams where they belong and the reality to trigger adequate thoughts to the decision makers and big players in the industry.
    Regarding the married segments on journeys priced on Half RT fare basis, are a fact for a long time now but i see as more of a bundle from the REVMAN more than a dedicated Married segment control. In fact the bundle has the same aim as the one of the Married segments an attempt to achieve revenue-load (YEILD) optimisation targets for the overall ASKs of the entire airline’s network , but the path is different. As the Married segments are usually attached to a specific routing, “the Bundle”as i call it is referred to the period of travel and the minimum load factor of revenue passengers the airline aims to achieve on a specific date (or period) of travel. Therefore the Married segments are attached to the entire construction of a fare component and “the Bundle” takes into consideration the pricing units (point to point) loads at the time of the availability request. I often see an example with Austrian or Turkish for example. If you check the availability separately, outbound and return, you will see the lowest RBD available, when booking the first journey (regardless if you book the outbound first or first the return one) the availability you will see after your second request will be adjusted accordingly the RBD you have already booked. Even if you do it very fast in the GDS and the inventory is not yet adjusted on the screen, trying to book the lowest available RBD is not possible after the attempt to take it. In the worse you will receive an immediate UC status the PNR after closing it. Some airlines even send ADMs for that or even for booking the return flights first and an attempt to booking the outbound after that. Relating to this, do you know how this segment “Bundle” practice has an official name or it could be considered as a REVMAN tool under the “Married segment” category?
    Thank you with anticipation for your replyh.

    Best Regards
    Nik

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