This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
“Reader Questions” are answered twice a week — Mondays and Fridays — by TPG Senior Writer Julian Mark Kheel.
The majority of folks who earn elite status do it based on miles flown, but the major airline programs also offer the option to qualify based on the number of flights you take, which are known as “segments.” TPG reader Joe wonders if there’s a way to increase his segments without paying a lot more.
I am a business traveler but I earn my status with segments. Are there ways to rack up segments without breaking the bank?TPG Reader Joe
Most people want to get to their destination with as few stops as possible, so most flight search engines such as Orbitz and Expedia are designed to find options with less segments, not more. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a way to override that setting.
In fact, our old favorite Google Flights is a great tool for doing this. When you put a search into Google Flights, it’s engineered to show you what it considers to be the “best” choices, which usually means the cheapest flights with the most convenience and fewest stops.
For instance, here’s a search for a one-way flight on American Airlines between New York (JFK) and Los Angeles (LAX)…
Putting aside any schedule considerations, the cheapest flights are two early morning nonstop options at $144. That would be just one segment. A little further down the list we see several one-stop options for just $5-$10 more. Any of those would earn you two segments.
But Google Flights is trying to help us by only showing the shortest and cheapest trips, and since we actually want longer itineraries in this case, we need to override that. We can do so by scrolling all the way to the bottom of the search results, where there’s an option to “Show 39 longer or more expensive flights.”
Click on that, and all of sudden our results change and reveal a lot more flights…
Now we can see additional itineraries (which are slightly shaded in the results), and there are several two-stop options going through Charlotte (CLT) and Phoenix (PHX), each of which would earn three segments toward American elite status. And in this case, choosing any of them would only cost $11 more than the cheapest AA flight available. So if you’ve got the time to make more stops, this would be a great chance to tack on the extra segments while just paying a few more bucks.
Obviously, the major downside of this technique is that you’ll be getting to your destination a lot slower than by just going direct, so you probably won’t want to use this as an everyday strategy for earning status. But if you tend to fly a lot of short flights on a regular basis — think New York to Boston (BOS) or Los Angeles to San Francisco (SFO) — and just need to pick up a few extra segments here and there, it might be worth taking a look at your options when booking trips.
Hope this helps, Joe, and don’t forget to get yourself a good lounge membership so that you’ll have a place to hang out during all your layovers. Thanks for the question, and if you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, send us a message on Facebook or email us at email@example.com.
Featured image by gcmap.com.
The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.
- Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
- Up to $200 for Uber rides annually. Credit and Uber VIP status available to Basic Card Member only.
- 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
- 5X Membership Rewards® points on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com.
- As a Platinum Card Member, you can enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
- Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
- $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees