Worried about rising airfare costs, not quite sure if you’ll actually be able to take that trip? FuturesAir let’s you buy an option instead of a ticket. For a fee equal to just 10% of the listed fare, you can lock in that fare and exercise the right to buy the ticket at that fare all the way up until 24 hours before departure. For $10 you can lock in that $100 ticket to New York City instead of paying $50 more at the last minute when your client finally decides to meet in person. FuturesAir airfare options can be transfered to another passenger via the FuturesAir fare exchange market.

Sadly, you cannot do this, at least not yet. I thought about this wandering through the Denver terminal. I cannot think of any immediate downsides for passengers. I wonder if airlines would lose more in their ability to price discriminate than they would gain from additional ticket sales. It’d be far easier to manage if such options were non-transferable, and I wonder if a secondary market would create prices that mimic ordinary airline fares.

As it stands, airlines don’t do a good job of presenting their prices. Southwest’s website is far from slick, but they show you your price options for the day in a pretty straightforward manner. When they present a super cheap price (no time changes!) and a more expensive, but flat rate for every time, they’re selling an option of sorts in the flat rate. Sure, it’s $30, $40 more (on a cheap east coast flight) but you have the option of switching flights with no price penalty (I guess that “option” expires with the last flight of the day).