United-ing Divorced Segments with United’s Excursionist Perk


Our flights were scheduled to depart in two days, and an alert I had set with PointsYeah finally arrived. A much better itinerary to get us from Detroit to Gothenburg on Turkish Airlines appeared to be available if booked through United Airlines. But… it wasn’t really available. It seems that the segments were divorced. That is, each segment was bookable separately, but not as part of a single award reservation. Ack! I tried a number of solutions, but finally remembered the United Excursionist Perk trick. That was the ticket!

The ideal journey

Our original journey involved two stops, three different airlines, and three separate bookings. I was not looking forward to trying to handle things if anything went wrong. There were no useful backup positioning flights available at all so if things went south, we probably wouldn’t by flying east to Gothenburg. So, when the Turkish itinerary became available I was excited. We would fly Detroit to Istanbul to Gothenburg in business class. The departure timing from Detroit was particularly good. We would leave Detroit at 8:10pm and have plenty of time on this 10 hour flight to eat dinner and get a good night sleep. Then, at the Istanbul airport, we might have time to visit Turkish’s awesome lounge before flying on to Gothenburg. Best of all, I’ve been eager to try Turkish business class to Istanbul ever since they added this flight from Detroit. It looked like I could finally fly it!

The divorced-segment problem

The problem was that even though United showed the award, it said that the award was “no longer available.” I found that the individual segments were easily bookable but I couldn’t book DTW-IST-GOT all together. A United rep confirmed the same: she could book me into the individual segments, but not the whole thing. In my mind I called this “divorced segments” since it’s the opposite of a married-segment situation. With married-segments, it’s common for multiple segments to be bookable together but not individually. To be clear, the issue I faced was just an award booking problem. I checked and found that Turkish would have happily sold me the itinerary I wanted for about $4,000 per person. No thanks, I’ve got miles!

To be clear, I don’t know that this was Turkish’s fault. I asked Gary Leff of View from the Wing if he’s seen this “no longer available” result before. He hadn’t. But his guess was that United simply couldn’t price the route, probably because the Detroit to Istanbul segment is relatively new (if I recall, they started the route November 15, 2023).

Of course I could have booked the flights separately and have been done with it. United then would have charged me 88K for Detroit to Istanbul and 45K points for Istanbul to Gothenburg. Yikes, that’s a lot.

An Aeroplan Solution?

Air Canada Aeroplan couldn’t see the combined flights at all. That is, when searching Detroit to Gothenburg, Aeroplan wouldn’t pull up any Turkish flights. Aeroplan could see the individual segments, though. When I searched Detroit to Istanbul and Istanbul to Gothenburg, Aeroplan could easily see those non-stop flights.

I tried forcing the issue with a multi-city booking, but then after selecting the first segment, the Istanbul to Gothenburg flight wouldn’t show up. It’s possible that an agent could have forced it to book. I’ll never know…

I tried calling Aeroplan, but there was a long wait and so I asked for a call back. They finally called back when I wasn’t available to answer. Ugh.

The Aeroplan do-it-myself solution would have been to book the segments separately. The total price in miles would have been the same either way.

  • If it was bookable together, Detroit to Istanbul to Gothenburg in business class would have cost 90,000 miles
  • Even booking separately, Aeroplan would charge the same 90,000 miles + $203 CAD (~$149 USD)
    • DTW-IST: 70K + $77 CAD
    • IST-GOT: 20K + $126 CAD

90K miles for a perfect itinerary isn’t bad at all, but I really preferred to used United miles since I’m particularly flush with them. And I preferred to have a single ticket so that if anything went wrong the airline would be responsible for getting us to our final destination (Gothenburg). So I kept looking…

Other Solutions?

Singapore Airlines also couldn’t see the two segments together and call center reps were worse than useless. And LifeMiles couldn’t even see the Detroit to Istanbul segment at all.

The Excursionist Solution

I finally remembered a trick for using United’s Excursionist Perk. The Excursionist Perk is an award feature that offers a free segment across an international region when booking a round-trip award. So, for example, one could book Detroit to Istanbul, then get a free flight from Istanbul to Gothenburg, then return from Gothenburg to Detroit. That would have been great, but we already had a good flight booked for our return. So, instead, the trick is for the “return” to be the cheapest award flight you can find that ends in your starting region. In my example, I just needed any award flight that was really cheap and ended in the United States. This trick works, by the way, even if that final flight originates and ends in the United states.

So, here’s what I booked as a single “round-trip” itinerary (you have to use United’s multi-city search to book these):

  • Detroit to Istanbul: 88K miles +$5.60 per person
  • Istanbul to Gothenburg: 0 miles + $7
  • Detroit to Chicago: 5.9K miles + $5.60 (for a future date when we may be able to go to Chicago)
  • Total per person: 93,900 miles + $18.20

The total number of miles as booked was only slightly more than Aeroplan would have charged and there were several benefits to the way I booked it:

  • Taxes and fees were much cheaper ($18.20 with United vs. ~$149 with Aeroplan)
  • We have the entire journey now on a single ticket. If anything goes wrong, Turkish should be able to get us to our final destination (Gothenburg) eventually.
  • We can easily check bags all the way through to Gothenburg. We may have been able to do so even with separate tickets but that wouldn’t be a slam dunk.
  • We have a free one-way future flight to Chicago.

I realize that the Excursionist Perk and the trick I used are very confusing. Rather than trying to explain it all here, I’ll point you instead to a post that I think does a good job explaining it in detail: Maximizing (and understanding) United Excursionist Perks.

The solution worked

I’m writing this last bit from our hotel in Gothenburg. On Monday, we had no problem checking our bags all the way from Detroit to Gothenburg. The schedule too, was just as good as I had expected: with the 10 hour flight, we had time both to have dinner and get a decent amount of sleep onboard before landing in Istanbul. There, we didn’t have to do any passport control since we were connecting onward to an international destination. We had just a few minutes to relax in Turkish’s wonderful business class lounge before our onward and very pleasant flight to Gothenburg.

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Are you doing a collab with Non Stop Dan?

Dugroz Reports

Good stuff! We were in Gothenburg last summer, very beautiful!
The community garden in the middle of town was especially peaceful & lovely.


Good for you, but I had bad luck with booking excursionist award recently.
Again individual segments were easily bookable, ( HND-SZX; IAD-ORD; KIX-HND) but nothing found with multi-city award search.
But it works if I change SZX to CTS. Any idea what issue this is?


I also tried booking just HND-SZX and then change the award to add IAD-ORD and KIX-HND (throw away), still get nothing found ..


yes, all 3 individual segments are bookable.
Also excursionist award is bookable if I change the first segment from HND-SZX to HND-CTS, so IAD-ORD is available for sure. I am guessing it has something to do with shenzhen airline .. very strange


Love it, I’ve only done something like this once, but it always makes you feel good inside.


Wow, this is super smart. I always thought the round trip must be from the destination. Never occur to me it could be in the same region as this US to US.

This is a very useful trick! Thank you for writing it!


Greg you deserve an award for this redemption. Congratulations!!


93K? Wow. I remember paying 100K RT in J on USair. Even once paid 60K off peak RT. those were the days.


Wow this is interesting, did not know you could do a US to US! You guys never cease to amaze me.


Greg, please explain what did you do with flight that you have already booked to return to the USA. Did you cancel it? Or do you plan just to change dates on flight
from Gothenburg to Detroit? I think I still do not understand how you can use that return flight from excursionist perk if you plan to use originally booked return.
Thank you so much for explaining.

Henry Sebastian

What happen if you cancel the final leg?


Wow that is next level hackery!! Well done!

Last edited 1 month ago by Francois

By “united-ing” those segments, you’ve achieved a nice “delta” in value. Buh-dump-bump.


Chef’s kiss for coming up with this solution.


You’re my hero, once again!


Is this part of the new challenge, or just a random trip to Gothenburg?


Part of a new challenge.


Have fun in Gothenburg, what do you have planned for your stay?


That sounds great. I’ve heard the 7-8 hour train from Oslo to Bergen is one of the most beautiful train rides in the world. Have fun in Bergen 🙂