Hold It Right There: How to Lock in Amazing Premium Flash Fares Long Enough to Decide If They’re Right for You

More airlines allow fare holds that prevent you from missing that awesome fleet-footed fare (the airline’s version of a “call option”)

The 1999 film, “The Matrix” popularized a cinema technique called “Bullet Time,” and since has been used in countless films, TV shows, video games and ads. Whether you’ve seen The Matrix or not, you’ve seen the technique. It’s where they slow down a fast moving object–like the firing of a bullet–and move slowly around that moving object observing it from a range of different angles.

It gave you time to stop and analyze what was happening, and take in the big picture, before real time resumed. 

It was a wow moment for Hollywood. It’s not often a game changing technique comes along.

Well, we have a WOW technique for you to use in travel—that’s just like Hollywood’s Bullet Time: the very underused (and very inexpensive) Fare Hold option, and now, happily, more airlines are getting on board.

So, do not be fooled by what everyone is always writing on “when is the best time to book your flight?” It is not a matter of when to book, but rather when to hold a great fare when you see it:

  1. Then do more research and decide if the dates and destination work for you. If so, buy the ticket; if not cancel the hold.
  2. The best time to buy a ticket is when your hold fare is lower than the current “live” fare.

What is a Fare Hold Option?

Spectacular low fares come and go all the time. They can change within a day or two, more or less. With a fare hold option you are able to lock in your fare without having to buy your ticket. In other words, low fares can be extended, before they disappear, giving you a chance to finalize your travel arrangements and dates.

How Does it Work?

At FCF, we like to call it “Look, Lock, Book.” Find the fare (Look), use a fare hold option (Lock), and then book (or not) based on further research on your travel arrangements and dates. The best time to buy the ticket is when the fare on hold is lower than the current live fare.

You just have to know the airlines and their rules for fare lock options, which gives you time to decide whether to purchase the ticket or let it go.

FCF’s 2020 Fare Hold Guide: Now with More Airlines

Since March 2019, when FCF last published a special report on the topic, 15 major airlines had the option to hold a reservation and guarantee the fare for free or a small fee. Now, four more airlines offer the fare hold option, making the total 19.

Why Should You Focus on the Airlines That Allow You to Lock in Amazing Flash Fares?

Look at the “lock” option as a way to stop time and keep fares from increasing so you have time to decide. For example, say you come across an FCF fare alert from Houston to Amsterdam on United for $2,096 in Business Class, but you’re not sure of your travel plans yet. You could buy a Fare Lock option with United for three days for $16.99 or for seven days for $19.99 per ticket to lock in your fare and flights.

Or, you could hold three (or more) tickets, on different dates with British Airways for 72 hours for $30 ($10 per ticket). You can space them out to cover yourself, with one departing the first week of the month, one the second, and one the third, or in three (or more) different months, or three (or more) different destinations, for example.

American’s hold is free for up to 24 hours, while Lufthansa charges $39 per reservation, for 48 hours. BA and Lufthansa even refund the fee if you buy the ticket.

What Are the Airlines That Offer a Fare Hold Lock in 2020?

There are 19 airlines that will lock and guarantee the fare and flights. The hold period and cost varies by airline. The “lock option” goes by different names, but it comes up during the booking process on eligible flights. The Details;

2020 Hold Matrix: Airlines That Lock in Amazing Premium Flash Fares to Use Later

AirlineCost Per Ticket or per ReservationHold TimeName for Hold OptionComments
Air France15 EUR (about $17) per ticket
Up to 72 hoursTime to Think
Non-refundable; not offered for First Class
Air New Zealand$35 per reservation
72 hours
Fare Hold
The Fare Hold fee is refundable if you cancel the Reserved Fares within 24 hours from the time you pay the Fare Hold fee. After that 24-hour period, the Fare Hold fee is not refundable, even if you cancel the Reserved Fare. Not offered if flight departure is less than 21 days.
All Nippon Airways$10 per person
72 hours
Keep My Fare
Non-refundable
American AirlinesFree
24 hours
Hold Your Reservation
When available on select American-marketed-and-operated flights, you can pay (non-refundable) to hold your reservation for an extended time period. The free 24-hour hold is also offered at times on British Airways, Iberia, Finnair, Japan Airlines, and Qantas.
British Airways$10 per ticket
72 hours
Hold Your Flight Price
Fee will be charged only if you cancel your reservation or take no action within the time limit
Cathay Pacific$25 per reservation
72 hours
Hold Your Fare
The fee is only charged if you do not buy the tickets within 72 hours.
Eva Air$16 per ticket
72 hoursTime to Think
Non-refundable
Fiji Airways20 FJD (about $9) per ticket
72 hoursTime to Think
Non-refundable; not offered if flight departure is less than 5 days.
Hawaiian AirlinesCost is per person and price varies
Varies: 3 or 7 days
Fare HoldNon-refundable
Iberia$10 per ticket (the first 24 hours are free)
24 or 72 hours
Need More TimeThe fee is then deducted from the final ticket price if you confirm the purchase within 72 hours.
KLMCost is per ticket and price varies: 10 to 15 EUR
72 hours
Time to ThinkNon-refundable
LATAMFree
24 hours
Hold Reservation
Offered one week or more prior to the flight’s departure.
LOT AirlinesCost is per ticket and varies: $10 or $13
Varies: 24 or 48 hours
Time to Think
Non-refundable
Lufthansa$39 per reservation
48 hours
Secure Your Fare
Fee will be charged only if you cancel your reservation or take no action within the time limit
Qatar AirwaysCost is per reservation and price varies: 24 hours free, 48 hours $15, 72 hours $20
24 to 72 hours
Hold My Booking
Non-refundable; if duplicate bookings are found, one of the bookings will be cancelled and the 'Hold My Booking' option will no longer be valid; offered 3 days or more before departure
Singapore AirlinesCost is per ticket and price varies
72 hoursSecure My Fare
Non-refundable; Premium Economy only (not offered for Business Class); made at least 30 days from the departure date.
SWISS25 CHF (about $27) per reservation
72 hoursHold the Booking
Non-refundable; at least 48 hours prior to departure required
TAP Air Portugal$13 per ticket
48 hours
Time to Think
Non-refundable
UnitedCost is per reservation and price varies
Varies: 3 or 7 days
FareLock
Non-refundable; not offered for partner flights.

What Is the Back-Up to a Fare Lock?

Most airlines allow you to cancel without penalty after you buy your ticket, and by law, you should receive a full refund within 24 hours of purchasing your ticket. (The Department of Transportation mandates that “U.S. and foreign air carriers allow a reservation to be cancelled within 24 hours without penalty.”) So when you book your ticket, make sure the airline shows that you get a refund if cancelled within 24 hours, somewhere during the booking process. Delta, for example has “24-Hour Risk Free Cancellation” on the flight summary page.

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