Continental brings back ticket holds… for a fee!

I’ve gotta say, this is really innovative. Continental has introduced a feature called “FareLock,” which allows you to hold reservations and lock-in the price for three to seven days, with no obligation to purchase the ticket. The fee apparently starts at $5 for a three day hold, and $9 for a seven day hold. I would fully expect the fee to be much higher most of the time, though, since there are many factors that determine the cost of a “FareLock.” Now, in fairness, the airline did take away free holds for a day a while back, though you can still cancel tickets within 24 hours.

Hey, at least it’s an innovative and (in some circumstances) potentially useful offer.

Comments

  1. “will vary based on a number of factors such as… number of days to departure”

    i wonder if they going allow holds that go beyond the date of departure, and if they do is it going to cost an arm and a leg.

    This could be potentially very good or very bad for bumps

  2. If I understand correctly, FareLock is different from the former free 24-hour holds: those allowed you to hold a reservation with a specific fare bucket, but were not immune to a repricing of the fare bucket itself. FareLock allows locking the actual fare, something which as far as I am aware was never available with Continental (they used to warn that fares may change until ticketing). So this does appear to be a new innovation.

    @Oleg — the negative impact is to make lower buckets temporarily unavailable to other customers, if all the availability is being held.

  3. This seems a lot like the old fare insurance product that I think FareCast used to sell prior to being acquired by Microsoft and integrated into Bing Travel.

  4. So what happens, per Ron’s suggestion above, if you wind up purchasing a higher-priced fare only to find out a day or two later that lower-price fares become available? United used to give you the difference via voucher, but stopped, and now requires basically the $150.00 change fee in order to re-coup the lower ticket price.

    A 24-48 hour hold seems reasonable, but aren’t actual paying customers trying to score the lowest fare more important than a bunch of ‘tire kickers’ holding lower bucket fares whom many may never purchase?

    Seems the bad will generated by finding out that your non-refundable M fare is now $140 higher than a lower available fare two days later will outweigh the goodwill associated with the ‘fare lock’ concept.

  5. the same tire kickers already exist today – holding fare buckets and renewing it every 24 hrs for perpetuity – but few go through the hassle of that

    most people would see this as a positive change – a form of “price hike insurance”

    but if u think carefully, it’s a great revenue stream for Conti. Say a low-season $320 transcon ticket. That $19 holdout fee is already a 6% tax, regardless if you end up buying the ticket or not.

    But I love it because it gives incremental value over something that doesn’t exist today (versus taking away a current service and making it a la carte)

  6. From a systems standpoint, this is a no brainer to accommodate. It will now just issue the tickets at the stored fare without repricing, assuming they are within the 3- or 7-day hold period. I think it’s a smart ancillary revenue stream,

  7. Not a bad deal if you hold discount inventory at T-7 for only $9. Bet the fee for that scenario is much higher. They’d be throwing away their pricing power on short-notice fares otherwise.

  8. I could see this being potentially useful for scheming hotel stays with skyauction.com whose dates cannot be immediately verified or waiting on wavering travel companions. Still, Continental seems to be continuing its trend of pursuing every possible nickel. I’d hope that they would honor reservation holds on mistake fares.

  9. Going through the motions of booking on airfrance.us in order to check prices, I just got the following alternative to paying in full:

    The Time to Think option : $20 per passenger. Payable now by credit or debit card (non-refundable). Reservation guaranteed until Sunday, January 16, 2011 – 11:00 PM

    Not clear if this just holds seats in the chosen bucket or if it also guarantees the fare for the bucket. And I’m not going to follow through to find out.

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