I mentioned the introduction of 72-hour fare locks on British Airways this weekend and reminded you about existing options from United Airlines as well as Options Away, which lets you purchase options on additional carriers by taking on themselves the risk of fare increases.
When I originally wrote about Options Away, I mentioned a competitor I came across called Level Skies. At the time Level Skies’ business model really confused me. They seemed to lock you into purchasing a flight through them, and it wasn’t clear what criteria would define the menu of options they presented. Since then, they’ve changed their business model in some ways that make it more appealing than Options Away.
There are two key differences:
Rather than forcing you to purchase your flight through Level Skies (the old model, and the one used by Options Away), you only purchase “insurance” against a potential price increase. You then submit your purchase receipt in the event you want to make a claim because fares went up.
Rather than purchase options on each individual flight you might be interested in (the model used by Options Away), you pay a flat fee and are promised the lowest price found on that day. If you book later and the lowest price went up (even if you booked a different, more expensive itinerary), you get a check for the difference.
I imagine the theory goes that the lowest price is a proxy for other airfares. Level Skies doesn’t need to know the exact flights you book as long as it has some measure of what price you would have paid. If the lowest price is $300 and later the lowest price is $400, it doesn’t matter that both are red-eyes with a connection, there’s a chance that the more convenient mid-day, non-stop itinerary also increased in price because of other factors common to both fares.
Level Skies tends to charge more for this kind of flexible insurance, but it’s cheaper overall if you want the flexibility of different flights. I was quoted a flat $20 for a weekend trip to Las Vegas, while Options Away quoted me between $13 and $18 for a three-day hold on each individual round-trip itinerary. Also worth noting is that Level Skies was assuming the lowest fare was $335, even though the flight results just below showed a $330 itinerary was available. So they appear to be building in some cushioning, though not so much I would swear them off.
I imagine you could just bet on price increases without ever booking a trip. Sure, Level Skies requires you to submit a receipt for reimbursement, but who’s to say you don’t also request a refund from your carrier within 24 hours per DoT regulations? Level Skies also says you can book your eventual ticket using miles or points, reinforcing the idea that this is an insurance gamble. Those of you with a keen eye for predicting fare increases may be intrigued. If anyone has used Level Skies or Options Away, I would be curious to read about your experiences in the comments.