Tips for picking the right airline segments

Airline segments are portions of an airline trip
••• A US Airways flight landing. US Airways

Definition

A segment is basically a portion of an airline itinerary, usually a flight between two cities that's part of a larger or longer travel plan. But if you need more info, it's best to examine air fare rules for specific fares.

Destination Segments to Avoid

When considering an airplane trip that involves more than just your departure city and the destination city, it may be helpful to consider the segments themselves, and what cities and airports that you will be traveling through. Be aware that certain cities and airports have the potential to add significant travel time to your trip.

For example, according to a recent statistical analysis of airline flights, the website www.fivethirtyeight.com identified a number of airports that business travelers would do well to avoid if possible. The delay statistics for airports like Honolulu, Portland, San Diego, Tampa, Salt Lake City, Miami, and Las Vegas were actually very good.

But the delay statistics for airports such as JFK in New York, LaGuardia in New York, Newark, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco, Dallas, and Washington DC were not so good. From a standpoint of delays, it's best for business travelers to avoid flying through those cities whenever possible. If you have two route options, consider picking one where the flight segments go through airports and cities with minimal delays whenever possible.

Another study of airline flights showed the worst airline segments or flights to avoid. The study was based on Bureau of Transportation statistics data. The study looked at flights over a full year to identify the biggest problem routes for business travelers.

From this analysis of airline flights, the most important flight segments or routes for business travelers to avoid include:

  • Chicago to Knoxville, Tennessee
  • Chicago to Wichita
  • Denver to Aspen
  • Chicago to Birmingham
  • Des Moines, IA to Chicago
  • Chicago to Lansing, MI

Of course, if one of these segments is the either the starting point or ending point of your trip, it may be hard to avoid them. But do consider them when booking your next business trip and select a different route if it's possible. The other alternative, of course, is to bring your laptop, a snack, and just plan on catching up on work while you're on the road.

Selecting the Best Route Segments

A good thing to do before purchasing your business travel airline ticket is to consult frequent flyer forums or websites like routehappy.com to see which routes are the best for your business trip. The website will provide information not only the time of each segment, but on the comfort level, the amenities, and the on-time performance. Recently, I used the website to select the best flights for a trip from Boston to Palm Springs, since there were no direct flights and I had multiple flight segments to consider.