Is SWISS Using ‘Married Segment’ Logic To Limit Award Availability?


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I’m starting to take my own advice a bit more nowadays so I’m doing my best to branch out and expand my horizons within the miles and points world. I’m looking to book with airlines that I don’t use all that often (I’ve finally booked the roundtrip Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy fare I’ve been saying I’d book for over a year) and I’m looking to make more use of currencies that I haven’t used very much in recent years.

It’s actually a fun exercise but it’s also an exercise which is shining a light on the fact that I’m not up to speed with the inticacies of certain programs.

When it comes to general program rules and knowing how and when to use various loyalty currencies I’m more than comfortable left to my own devices but, every now and again I encounter something that makes me stop, think and wonder if what I’m looking at is a glitch, an oddity or a program’s feature that I didn’t know about.

That’s what I’m facing right now.

I’ve been wanting to fly in the SWISS 777 Business Class cabin for some time so I’ve been searching for award availability to see if I can book the cabin using a stash of United Miles that I have at my disposal.

SWISS 777-300ER at LAX

Specifically, I’ve been looking to book a Business Class award to get me back to LA (from Europe) for the Christmas Holidays.

When I use United.com to search for Business Class awards between Zurich and Los Angeles in December this is what the search results look like:

In the first two weeks of December, there’s saver award availability in both Economy Class and in the premium cabins but, after that, there’s no availability whatsoever until the second week of January….and even then it’s only availability for the Economy Class cabin.

However, when I search for award availability between Munich and Los Angeles I see a far friendlier set of results…

….and there’s nothing strange in that as award availability will always vary from city to city.

What is strange, however, it this:

When I check to see what flight options I’m offered out of Munich on 18 December I see a routing that would take me via Zurich (and on the SWISS 777).

A search for Business Class awards between Zurich and LA showed no award availability for 18 December and yet here we can see that I can book a Business Class award on that date for that exact route if I’m prepared to add a Munich – Zurich segment to my trip.

On the grounds that United.com hasn’t exactly been the most reliable site for award bookings this year (the Singapore Airlines debacle has only just ended) I also checked to see what Aeroplan would offer me.

Searching for Business Class awards on the Aeroplan site for travel between Zurich and LA on 18 December returns this set of results:

None of the awards on offer include a non-stop Business Class flight, all involve a stopover and all are for mixed cabin bookings.

If I ask Aeroplan to filter out all the mixed cabin options it shows zero award availability on the Zurich LA route for 18 December (just like United.com).

If I then use the Aeroplan site to search for Business Class award availability for travel between Munich and Los Angeles on 18 December I see the same thing as I saw on United.com – there’s an award available which routes through Zurich:

This doesn’t appear to be a glitch so the only other explanation for this that I can think of is that SWISS is using married segment logic* to limit the award space it is offering.

Does anyone know for certain if this is the case? And if it is the case, how common is it?

Bottom Line

Married segment logic can be a highly annoying practice but is very common for airlines to use it for cash fares and it’s not uncommon for it to be used on miles and points bookings too (American Airlines is a prominent user of married segment logic when it comes to award availability)…but I wasn’t aware that SWISS was an airline that applied married segment logic to its awards.

I’d really like to know what’s going on here so if anyone can help that would be great.

*When an airline uses ‘married segments’ it means that a fare may be available for an itinerary like A → B → C while there may be different availability (or no availability at all) if you just wish to travel A → B or just B → C.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Ran into this May 2017. Nothing direct, but saw married segments on Swiss, didn’t impact me as I was booking CPH-ZRH-LAX anyways

    • That’s good to know – thanks! Now I know this isn’t a glitch or a one-off I’ll make sure I dig around when looking for SWISS awards – I won’t just give up when ZRH & GVA come up with nothing.

  2. Happened to me earlier this year. What I wanted was JFK-ZRH-FRA but that wasn’t available. However, I could get JFK-ZRH-STR or JFK-ZRH-DUS. So I ended up booking JFK-ZRH-DUS-FRA. Super stupid if you think about it. Availability on the ZRH-FRA segment that I would’ve wanted was there as well. Booked through Miles and More and they said that it’s rather common for Swiss to have married segments (which sucks).

    • I agree. It does suck. If you just have to get yourself to ZRH/GVA to catch an award flight that’s one thing, but it’s a lot harder to avoid having to book an airport hotel if you have to position to a short-haul flight which then leads to the actual flight you want to take.

  3. Same with Austrian award seats. Wanted to fly vie-lax next week – no available direct seats, just vie-zrh-lax. But if you fly vie-lax-san, there is suddenly award space on the OS81 flight. The whole recheck-your-bag thing when entering the US makes it terribly easy to just walk away with your luggage at the layover.

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