Segment runs are flights taken solely for the purpose of gaining elite status. People have chosen to do this as a more economical way of gaining/keeping elite status for the next calendar year. Individual’s reason for doing this can be various while everyone is determined to gain access of important status benefits such as lounge access and extra baggage allowance etc.; Some airlines even offer complimentary upgrades on selective routes (Delta, China Eastern etc.) to its certain tier members which can be extremely tempting(valuable) for many frequent flyers.
Whatever the reason of doing such practice might be, it’s completely legal even though many passengers have to travel several segments under very short connection intervals. Airlines see these passengers paying real cash to fly around with them as loyal followers which in return made their program worthy as the amount of extra revenue they are bringing in.
I have been doing segment runs myself this year, by travelling extensively with Air France and KLM to gain elite status before their Flying Blue program get “reinvented” after the end of March; I have to admit that it was a bumpy ride, so without further ado, here’s the top ten list on some of the issues I’ve encountered.
1. If you don’t already have airline status, you will be “miserable” at the airport.
Imagine you had everything and now you have to start from scratch, this is a hard-to-swollow feeling that thousands of frequent flyers experience when they have failed to keep their elite status and their current tier level(even after the soft landing) no longer grant some valuable benefits like lounge access and priority boarding; so what they have to do now? Sitting in the gate seating area like everybody else and maybe glance upon the glass mirror of the lounge where things weren’t that attractive when you had them which seems extremely fine now. Every time you buy something at the airport which comes extra out of the airline ticket you bought, you start to reminiscing again where you’ve had it all (free) before.
2. You flights can be canceled or delayed.
When you start to take a series of flights within a short period of time or within one alliance network, chances of your flights getting disrupted increase dramatically. You might be bumped on your original seat, heck, you might even be bumped for the flight as you probably booked you cheap segment run tickets at the lowest fare class possible. When your flights get cancelled or delayed, you must be thinking again:”what on earth I’ve done to deserve this, I could’ve stay at home doing nothing, instead you are spending money form your own pocket to get “punishment”.
3. It take time for the system to update.
So, you’ve book yourself on a dozen of tickets where gradually you are getting closer and closer to your segments threshold, however it might take several days for the segments and miles to be updated into your account. There are some scenarios where it can be very frustrating to wait for it to happen, for example, when you’ve already taken 30 segments (Gold Status) but your account summary still remains at 28, so even though you can show the lounge agent your boarding pass as proof, there’s still a chance you will be shut out. (So close yet so far.)
4. There are more disruptive factors.
Other than delays and cancelled flights, there are even more issues you could encounter where the segment runs can become torturous. If you are having a cold,(which happened to me) your runny nose isn’t the only misfortune, many passengers(including me) can experience some level of ear pain upon take off and landing when flying ill. Most of the times, It can be something you can tough through however there are reports online where people have lost their hearing for days due to taking a flight when they are having minor illness like a cold. Other than this, who knows what kind of crazy life-changing events could be happening to you? Besides, most of the you probably have a “normal” job with limited flexibility for free time activities where segment run isn’t one of them.
5. You start to see limitations of the program.
Are you dreaming of all of the special treatments you will be getting when you finally got the elite status? Yep, every airline list everything on their site so you can be amazed at how much they are offering, however, some of them weigh much less than the rest as how much treatment you are getting depends on many other factors as it might not be honoured even though it was stated on their site. For example, they’ve been bragging about your chances of getting free upgrade and you do hear stories from people who really got lucky, but throughout all of the segments you’ve been taking, you hardly notice any elite status holders get anything extra, heck, if the attendants working that day are not in a good mood, they might not get anything unless asked. You will start to doubt if it’s worth it after all of these time, money and emotion you’ve invested into it, and remember, you would have to start again for next year.
6. You rarely get to see the cities you’ve flown to.
So what, you’ve been to three different city within one day? When you land, you started to fantasise about all of the things the city can offer but no, you can’t stay, either you go to the lounge or stay inside the terminal, because you are just a passerby. You start to wish that you allowed yourself more time here, or maybe next time, you can have a “real” trip to visit here.
7. The crew started to notice you.
I am not sure how to explain to flight attendants who’ve travelled with you on the same plane back and forth, they said goodbye to you half an hour ago hoping you will have a nice stay at the city, but now they are greeting you again to welcome you onboard. You will be intimated by both the confusion you are causing and the awkwardness if you are to explain. It would be easier if they ask you about it, but if not, all kinds of crazy things might be going through their heads.
Maybe they think I am a supervisor from the upper management team doing secret service examination for the airline? Or I am some mysterious worker for other organisations? (Air Marshal, even a spy maybe?) Or even worse, they will notify authorities for suspicious travel patterns? I am just glad the segment runs I am doing doesn’t require passport control.(imagining that…) It’s a very unique feeling when you fly like you work on the plane.
8. You started to wondering if you should do mileage run instead.
While halfway to your segment runs goal, you started to calculating again, imagine if you did mileage run in business class instead, surely it will caused you a bit more money, but you will be getting tons of miles, for the segment runs you’re doing now, you will barely getting a short-haul return flights; not to mention all the trouble to went through to get here.
9. Your family and friends think you are crazy/weird/stupid.
On dinner tables your mum/wife are explaining what you are doing and people are puzzled, or when you missing hangouts with your friends, they think you are on a secret mission when you are just going to the airport take some flights and come back. Things can also take a romantic turn, when you are packing to somewhere repeatedly, your friends or parents might be thinking you’ve found someone new and want to keep it low-key, or even worse, your partner think you are cheating on her/him as you come up with some hard-to-believe excuses like segment runs.
10. It might be not worth it.
Nowadays, the commercial aviation industry if shifting towards consolidation where a lot of airlines and FFP programs are saying goodbye to us. If you think you can keep doing this for ten years non-stop to score a lifetime membership, other industry disruptions like bankruptcy or merge between airlines can really screw up your final goal here. We’ve seem airlines like Air Berlin(bankrupted) while their FFP remained active however much of its value has already been lost and trends where more and more airlines are turning revenue-based, you will realise at the end of the day, the key of not getting defeated in the game frequent travelling is actually stay rich enough to fly premium without status, although sticking with airlines with better future prospects surely ensure you with some level of security here.
The list is based solely on my own experience so far, I am sure you guys have more to offer, or maybe my views here can be rather immature as this is my first time of doing segment runs, share with me your opinions or if you have personal experience to add. Thanks for reading.