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See how Qatar’s ‘married segment availability’ can wrongly make you think Avios seats are gone

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We’ve talked about ‘married segment availability’ on Head for Points before when discussing how to find Avios availability on Qatar Airways, but we’ve never done a detailed explanation of how it works in practice.

As it happens, last week a friend asked me to look up some redemption options for him to Jakarta. It showed the Qatar Airways ‘married segment availability’ in action.

Qatar Airways married segment availability

What is ‘married segment availability’?

Put simply, ‘married segment availability’ (in Avios terms) is when two flights are available for a connecting flight redemption but the same flights may not be available either individually or with different connections.

There are a couple of reasons why this may happen.

One is an attempt to share out reward availability for some reason. Let’s imagine that there is only one flight a day to Doha from a certain city compared to multiple flights per day from Heathrow. Travellers from Heathrow may want to be ‘encouraged’ onto certain onward connections in order to leave space on flights which are ‘must have’ connections from other cities due to a less frequent schedule.

Another reason can be some sort of ‘opportunity cost’ calculation. Qatar Airways has some cities where flights are priced highly (eg London) and others where it has to price lower to fill an aircraft. When cash fares are lower, the algorithm may open more reward seats because the opportunity cost (selling a seat for Avios vs cash) is lower.

Whatever the reason on any specific route on any specific day, all that matters is that it DOES happen and you need to plan for it.

Qatar Airways married segment availability

Let’s go to Jakarta

Here are some examples for flights to Jakarta, one way, on 23rd July.

From Dublin

Here’s is a screenshot for a trip which starts in Dublin:

Qatar Airways married segment availability

Look at the connecting flight from Doha to Jakarta (02.35, 24th July). It is available for ‘standard’ Avios pricing in Business Class. Business Class is the middle of the three options shown and you see the ‘O’ showing a seat is bookable.

From Amsterdam

Let’s look at the same flight but starting from Amsterdam. Look carefully below:

Qatar Airways married segment availability

The EXACT same flight, the 02.35 on 24th July from Doha to Jakarta, is now ‘occupied’ in Business Class – even though you can book this seat if you start in Dublin.

From Manchester

Let’s try Manchester. Look at this:

Qatar Airways married segment availability

The EXACT same flight, the 02.35 on 24th July from Doha to Jakarta, IS available in Business Class but it will cost you double Avios. This is what the ‘Flexi’ tag means above the middle flight option.

It’s also worth noting that there are no Economy seats available from Manchester on the Doha to Jakarta leg, even though you can book Economy from Dublin and Paris.

From Doha

Out of interest, I thought I’d check what was available if you were booking from Doha to Jakarta as a standalone flight:

Qatar Airways married segment availability

Both Economy and Business Class are available for ‘standard’ Avios pricing.

Conclusion

The lesson to learn here is that you should never take ‘Occupied’ as the final answer when searching for Qatar Airways Avios availability.

If you are willing to start from a different city, those seats you want may suddenly appear.


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You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

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Comments (39)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • BA-Flyer says:

    BA do something similar, at least when the Amex companion voucher is involved. For my last redemption, LHR-SIN had no availability. Starting at EDI and connecting via LHR showed two seats.
    I think this is to help broaden the appeal of the Amex card to people outside London.

    • HampshireHog says:

      This is because of the extra availability using the BA companion voucher in I class

  • Return2sender says:

    Can recommend OSL in particular as an interesting starting point for flights transiting DOH. Overnight at the excellent Amerikalingen Hotel opposite the station, an easy trip from the airport and an easy walk to the Munch museum.

    • Thaliasilje says:

      Minimum £500 added there.

      • ATP says:

        Agreed. We did OSL to BKK with QR. We needed 2 rooms. Came in better off overall than from LHR and we got to see OSL, but it still added £1.2k for positioning, hotel (Radisson Blu), food etc. should definitely be factored into the holiday costs.

        • ALISON says:

          yes you need to consider it as an add-on city break to wherever you’re ultimately going, if you stop overnight. But if OSL-DOH has reward availability that is not available from LHR then it’s worth it.

          • ALISON says:

            should have added ‘… if you’re going on to somewhere like Australia ‘. Obviously not worth it just to go to DOH!

  • Hennebou says:

    Does a multi-carrier reward booking enable someone to work around married segment availability?

    e.g. does LHR-DOH & DOH-HND, back via HND-HEL & HEL-LHR work as multi-carrier reward booking if there is availability for each individual segment (but not the “married” LHR-HND segment on QR)?

  • Chris W says:

    What am I supposed to do this with information.

    Book flights to or from places I don’t want to go because that’s all that is available?

    • Peter K says:

      The short answer is yes.

      If you are willing to travel to a different starting airport then more options may open up for you. If you are not willing to do that, and will instead pay cash, then this article isn’t for you as you have been factored into the equation by them having a lack of rewards availability in eg LHR.

    • Rob says:

      Dunno about you but I’d be perfectly happy to take the train to Manchester to get an Oz ticket for 180k vs 360k from Heathrow or even nothing at all …..

      • AL says:

        You can fly more quickly and cheaply – LHR BA MAN then MAN QR DOH QR CGK. You’d get a few more Avios and TPs, too. Train service has become nothing short of a shower since Avanti took over.

      • Talay says:

        Agreed, to a certain extent (HEL positioning requiring overnight hotels and a very long wait excluded perhaps) but surely the crux is that the same might / will / could happen on the return, where (on a return flight) it is mightily difficult to get airlines to even book you on a route like OSL-DOH-BKK-DOH-LHR/LGW even when seats are available as their normal position is to force you back to OSL and your nightmare return journey to where you need to be begins.

        I’ve eventually traded the convenience of LHR departures and returns simply because of the lost time and cost of positioning even when the saving has been significant though I have skiplaged a few where I could route through LHR on the way back to OSL/ARN/HEL etc.

    • BA Flyer IHG Stayer says:

      It’s an option for you to consider not a directive to follow!

      Same with people like me who will fly to e.g. Arlanda or Dublin to start a trip there that will save me a shed load of cash over starting in LHR.

      It’s not for everyone but that doesn’t mean Rob shouldn’t write about it.

  • Jan H says:

    Could you please, please, please stop calling this behaviour a ‘married segment availability’? It is called an ‘O&D availability’, as in Origin & Destination based strategy to determine seat availability for each flight segment based on the full journey (i.e. full O&D).

    The so-called ‘Married Segments’ is only a “flag” which is added to multiple flight segments after they are sold/booked, to prevent removal of some or other messing with these segments to exploit the O&D availability. Hence Married Segments will not impact you anyhow until you try to change some of the flights later on.

    Having said that, the O&D availability and Married Segments are often used together for obvious reasons, but they are two different things and only the former one has something to do with actual seat availability. Meaning you could have Married Segments without any O&D based availability, or no Married Segments even though the airline does apply the O&D availability strategy (neither is smart, but it’s perfectly possible).

    • JD says:

      Interesting. Do you know which airlines have O&D availability but don’t do married segments, thus letting you drop the ‘unmarried’ segment later?

    • The real Swiss Tony says:

      From Amadeus

      Married segments allow airlines to control inventory, by combining two or more segments in the sell request and processing them as one unit.

      “Control inventory” being the key point here for me.

  • Martin says:

    It is no different from the BA website and trying to come from a domestic connection. You have to try the permutations. The I class voucher doesn’t change things. Unfortunately this is an example of London centric thinking and isn’t helpful really. Just think out of the box. .

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