The mystery of Continental's new Farelock: Who's buying?
FareLock, a new service offered by Continental airlines, gives passengers the opportunity to lock-in lower fares for three days to a week on some flights, but many critics see it as just another fee in disguise.
Although it might be argued that FareLock has the potential to reduce fees to change flights, let's be honest. The US Department of Transportation says the airline industry made $4.3 billion in the first nine months of 2009 in fees alone, and US Airways says fees account for 100 percent of the company's 2010 profit.
Reduce fees? Not likely.
FareLock works like this: passengers can pay a minimum of $5 to lock down the fare on a specific reservation for 72 hours to one week with no obligation to actually purchase the ticket. (If you don't purchase though, of course, you lose your fee without getting a ticket. And the fee doesn't go toward the purchase price if you do end up buying.) FareLock is not available on all flights, and charges a minimum of $5 for a three-day hold or $9 for a seven-day hold, although these fees can increase significantly depending on the flight and how soon you plan to travel.
A round trip January flight from Houston to San Francisco, for example, costs $19 for a one-week hold.
So who does it benefit? I mean, if you already know when you're flying, wouldn't you buy as early as possible, anyway, to avoid price hikes? "FareLock is an innovative option for customers who need extra time to plan their travel before purchasing a ticket," said managing director of merchandising Chris Amenechi in a statement.
So, if you locked in a fare and then decided that reservation didn't work for you, you'd lose the deposit AND have to buy a new ticket even closer to your departure date? And did we mention it only works through Continental.com, eliminating passengers' ability to use discount sites? Am I missing something?
Tell us what you think in the comments.