Flyr, a San Francisco startup that predicts airfare and seat availability, has finally launched FareKeep, its version of a fare lock, or an option to keep an airplane ticket price valid for a week.
The product, available at its consumer site getflyr.com, starts with domestic US routes and selected carriers.
For instance, a round-trip ticket between San Francisco and Seattle that Virgin America was selling for $200 earlier today could have been locked in for one week for a fee of $19.
If Virgin dropped the price within the week, the traveler would get that better deal instead. Yet Flyr is predicting that fares will rise. If its forecast is right, the traveler would pay the same $200 fare. (There would be no obligation to purchase the flight if a traveler's plans changed.)
The fee varies. For a round-trip between Philadelphia and Columbus a month in advance, Flyr was charging a notably higher $60 to lock in a $413 United fare for a week.
The fare lock concept was pioneered by individual airlines, such as Air France and Continental (now United).
Since late 2012, the Chicago startup Options Away has offered a similar product in the US. The startup's founders have a background in the relevant field of options trading.
To date, Flyr has primarily focused on business-to-business applications. But its new FareKeep product is available to consumers and travel agents who find its website, and it says it is cementing partnership with online travel companies.
Options Away, by contrast, has primarily had an emphasis on appealing directly to consumers. That said, this summer, Options Away will go live on the travel agency terminals of Sabre, the global distribution system. Its fare locks also come in more varieties than its rivals', ranging from 2 to 14 days in advance of departure.
Both companies have been in a race for funding, with OptionsAway having received $5.5 million in investment and Flyr having raised about $4.2 million for both its US and its European operations.
When testing Flyr today, Tnooz only found FareKeeps on selected flights. For instance, an itinerary less than a week away didn't offer a fare lock option, and the option was limited to domestic itineraries as of today.
Flyr: The original Tnooz profile
Options Away: The original Tnooz profile