Continental has launched “Fare Lock,” which charges you a fee to lock in a fare for anywhere from three days to one week. FareLock holds both a reservation and a fare, so you can reserve first and ask questions later.
The price is … vague:
Customers may choose FareLock when booking reservations at continental.com and opt for a 72-hour or a seven-day hold. They may return to complete the transaction at any time between purchasing the lock and its expiration, or they may choose an auto-ticketing feature which tickets at the end of the lock period. FareLock fees, beginning at $5 for a 72-hour hold and $9 for a seven-day hold, will vary based on a number of factors such as the itinerary, number of days to departure and the length of the hold.
So essentially, Continental is selling you a call option on an airfare, with the “call” expiring in either 3 days or 7.
(When Continental starts selling puts, as well as calls, call me… Can you imagine the secondary market?)
This could be useful for some people, if the fare is rock-bottom enough and worth buying insurance for. But remember, if you can figure out your plans within 24 hours, you don’t need such an insurance policy in the first place. After all, Continental still offers a 24-hour flexible booking policy, meaning that you have 24 hours from the time you purchase the ticket to cancel for a full refund, for any reason.
Interestingly, the press release reaffirms the existence of the 24-hour flexible booking policy, so the company is seemingly signaling that the courtesy-cancel isn’t going away. That’s good.
It’s not clear how much demand there really is for such a service. If the price is too high, that demand will disappear really quickly. For now, I’ll most likely rely more on the 24-hour courtesy-cancel, but it’s good to know there’s an insurance option available.