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This Might Be Your Best Option for Booking Holiday Flights

An easy tip to save money on flights.

The prices of flights in the summer skyrocketed. The good news: Prices have started to come down. The bad news: It likely won’t stay that way. So right now is the best time to cement your fall and holiday travel plans (if you haven’t already). With airlines trimming their schedules and the whirlwind of chaos continuing in the U.S. and Europe, you want to make sure that you get your desired flight (early morning, direct) at the cheapest fare possible without last-minute hurdles.

If you’re not ready to commit instantly, there is a travel hack that will come in handy: freeze flight. When you stumble upon a tempting flight fare but you or your travel companions aren’t sure about your plans, you can choose to freeze the fare of your flight with a small deposit and make a decision about it within an allotted amount of time. 

Whether the deposit is refundable or adjustable depends on the individual policies of companies and airlines (confirm this before you book). And not all airlines have this function.

New Feature by App in the Air

A useful travel app, App In the Air has recently launched a Price Freeze function for domestic flights. This app has been on our radar for a long time. It works as a personal assistant with a one-stop destination for all your travel itineraries and bookings, from flights to hotels. You can even auto check-in through the app and get real-time updates on boarding gates and flight status. App in the Air also lets you book flights and hotels and keeps boarding passes, past and upcoming trip details, and loyalty program information all in one place. 

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With its Price Freeze option, users will be able to hold their flights for a non-refundable fee and book it when they’re ready to commit to the itinerary. The app will hold the price for up to two weeks before the flight date and the deposit you pay will be adjusted in the final fare when you book. One distinct feature of the app is that travelers can lock a fare from a range of flights within a time period.

For example, if you’re flying from New York City to Seattle between December 18-24 and returning between December 29-January 4, you can price hold a $1,047 ticket for $115 until December 7.

Related: 14 Travel Apps Savvy Travelers Need to Download Right Now

There Are More Options

Hopper is another travel app that allows people to price freeze for flights, hotels, and car rentals. The app tracks airline fares, hotel charges, and car rentals, among others, to tell you the best time to book, which you can do on the app itself, and it also predicts whether a price is likely to go up or down in the future. 

For its Price Freeze feature, you can make a non-refundable deposit to freeze the price. If the fare increases prior to the expiration date, Hopper will cover the cost up to a service cap (which is mentioned at the time of holding the ticket), but if it decreases, you pay the lower price. The upfront fee to price freeze is not applied to the final cost of the flight. (Read the details of its terms and conditions here.)

Airlines, too, offer this service. Emirates has a Hold My Fare policy that reserves your booking for 72 hours, as do British Airways and Cathay Pacific. Air New Zealand and Air France give you a three-day window, while American Airlines has a seven-day freeze fare policy. During this time frame, the cost of your ticket remains the same even if the price increases, and you can decide if you want to go ahead with the booking or do nothing (in which case it is automatically canceled in most cases).

However, note that airlines charge a small fee to freeze flights and some may not refund the amount. The service is also not applicable on every flight. So, as always, read the fine print before you hit “Hold.” 

The 24-Hour Rule

The Department of Transportation (DoT) has a regulation for airlines that comes in handy for travelers. According to the 24-hour rule, airlines are required to “hold a reservation at the quoted fare for 24 hours without payment or allow a reservation to be canceled within 24 hours without penalty.”

The flight needs to be booked more than seven days in advance; it can only apply to flights originating or going to the U.S.; and it should be booked directly with the airline (not third-party vendors such as Expedia, who have their own cancelation policies). 

It gives travelers a unique power: they can book a ticket or hold a reservation until they’re ready to commit to the itinerary. In case they book a flight and the fare drops the next day, they can buy a new ticket with the revised fare and cancel the old reservation without any penalty. 

Airlines can opt for either one: holding the fare or refunding the payment after reservation if you cancel within 24 hours. The rule specifies that customers should confirm airline policy before booking. “If an airline accepts a reservation without payment, it must allow the consumer to cancel the reservation within 24 hours without penalty. If an airline requires payment with a reservation, it must allow the consumer to cancel the payment and reservation within 24 hours and receive a full refund.”

For example, American Airlines allows you to hold your reservation for up to 24 hours for free. If you don’t book it, it is automatically canceled. For longer holds, a non-refundable fee is charged that won’t be used against the flight price in case you decide to go ahead.

DoT also mentions that airlines are not required to make free changes to the itinerary—that’s also an airline policy. Southwest, for example, doesn’t charge anything if you want to change a flight (you can even do it up to 10 minutes before departure). Passengers are required to pay the difference in fare, which is refunded if the new flight is cheaper.