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New Fee: Hold Your Reservation for Up to a Week

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Continental announced a new perk today, called FareLock, which allows passengers to hold reservations beyond the customary 24 hours that airlines currently offer. With FareLock, customers can hold bookings for 72 hours or seven days without completing the purchase.

The perk’s cost (you didn’t think it was free, did you?) starts at $5 for a 72-hour hold and $9 for a seven-day hold. Continental says the actual price “will vary based on a number of factors such as the itinerary, number of days to departure and the length of the hold.” Presumably customers will pay more for flights departing sooner and for higher demand itineraries.

I priced a few options from Boston, and found prices ranging from $9 to $15 for the 72-hour window, and $19 to $29 for the seven-day window. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t get any base price options, and I imagine you’d have to dig around to find one. What did surprise me is that the shortest flight, Boston to Newark in early January, came with the most expensive FareLock costs.

FareLock is a nonrefundable purchase, and the standard 24-hour hold still applies, meaning customers are technically purchasing an additional 48 hours or six days. FareLock is not offered on all itineraries, but eligible flights are marked.

FareLock is likely targeted at business travelers, but could make sense for anyone flying last-minute or on an emergency basis. It’s relatively cheap insurance on a flight that you may or may not need to book, and gives customers a few days to see if competing airlines can match Continental’s fare.

But for customers who don’t desperately need that flexibility, FareLock is a waste of money. Why pay an extra $15 for something you know you want, just so you can think about it for a few days? And travelers who don’t end up booking with Continental will effectively be purchasing nothing but empty air. So unless you’re a business traveler whose company can absorb the cost, or you may have to book a ticket but aren’t sure—I’m thinking of a sick relative or similar wait-and-see situation—save your cash for the myriad other fees you’ll actually need to pay.

Readers, what do you think about Continental’s new perk/fee?

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