Airfare sites

Airfare sites (Reese Harper, Getty Images/Imagezoo)

Remember when airfares often came with the ability to hold a ticket before paying? Like many other options of air travel, this too mostly has vanished.

We've all been there — you start to plan a trip, find some decent fares but need a few days for your boss to approve your vacation. And, inevitably, when you check again, the airfare has increased. But now a new online travel agency is offering you options. With Options Away (optionsaway.com), travelers can hold prospective flights for a small nonrefundable fee, eliminating the need for hasty commitments. It allows you more time to decide on that vacation while your airfare is locked in. The fees range from $4 for a 24-hour hold on a round-trip ticket to about $40 to hold a round-trip ticket for 21 days. If your plans fall through, you lose only the hold fee. You're simply paying for the option to buy.

Though a little-known federal regulation lets passengers hold a reservation without payment or cancel a booking without penalty for 24 hours, Options Away allows you to hold a ticket as long as 21 days. And the website's 24-hour hold may be less hassle than dealing with an airline.

"Our customers feel that the cost of the hold is worth the peace of mind, and that is really what we are selling here," said Rob Brown, co-founder and CEO of the Chicago-based company.

Brown and wife Heidi, the other founder, are former financial traders who are using their knowledge in options pricing and applying it to air travel with some proprietary algorithms.

If the fare goes up during a hold time and the customer does buy the ticket, Options Away funds that difference. "If the fare goes down, the consumer gets this new, lower fare," Heidi Brown said.

Options Away offers flights to and from all major U.S. cities. Additional international flights are in the pipeline.

The site's new app is available from the iTunes app store.