|by Sean O'Neill||Airfares & Flying, Airlines, Online Travel Agencies||19|
Airlines think that all the world's problems can be solved with fees.
Yesterday, Continental Airlines announced a new way to book fares on its site. If you like a nonrefundable fare but aren't ready to commit, you can lock in the option to buy the ticket for three days if you pay a $5 fee—or for as long as a week for a fee of up to $19 per ticket.
Budget Travel tip:
Use FareLock to your advantage.
1. Find a fare you like on continental.com. Lock it in by paying the fee.
2. Comparison shop elsewhere. [Explanation: FareLock is only available if you book on continental.com directly. One danger of shopping directly on any airline's own site, however, is that you might fight a cheaper fare elsewhere. So go comparison shopping on other sites to find the best deal going.]
3. Sign up for automatic alerts on your preferred flight. Go to Kayak/Yapta (kayak.yapta.com/flights) and sign up for free e-mail alerts on the flight that you like. If you find a fare that's much cheaper (because fare prices rise and fall every hour), you can take advantage of it before the clock runs down on your Continental deal.
Alternative strategy: For maximum savings, be flexible on flight times and airlines. Go instead to FareCompare and click the My Trips/Alerts tab. Sign up for e-mail alerts. Click on the link "Add a Trip," and request track fares for the next few days. You may find a lower fare on a different airline at a different set of times and airports.
Continental is the first U.S. airline to provide this helpful option. Note: This FareLock service differs from saving a reservation for 24 hours, which has been a standard feature for years.
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