Farecast guarantees airfare predictions

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Airfare prediction Web site Farecast.com has debuted a service that lets customers protect the lowest airfare for their trip without buying a ticket.
Fare Guard comes six months after the launch of the meta-search travel site to the national market, and it illustrates Farecast's confidence in its predictions for airfare.
"Transparency and openness of information is the next evolution for online travel sites," said Mike Fridgen, vice president of product and marketing at Farecast, Seattle. "Consumers want to know more information, and now it's about that next level of transparency and showing all of the information about the price."
Farecast works like a stock prediction. It measures recent fares on any mix of dates and times on hundreds of airlines and combines this with historical fare rates and trends to speculate on the cost of upcoming fares. The prediction shows whether the lowest fares on a specific trip are rising or dropping as well as expected price movements, confidence levels and historical prices. The site will advise buying now if fares are rising, or that fares are stable so waiting is fine.
Fare Guard is Farecast's way of guaranteeing this prediction. Pay $9.95 to hold the flight, and consumers can wait a week before buying. Purchasers of Fare Guard will receive daily e-mail updates for seven days to help track the lowest fare and can book on any airline at any price in that time. The difference in cost between the lowest fare that Farecast predicted and the actual cost on the day of booking will be sent to customers in a check.
Farecast is using an ad model to monetize this project, hosting contextually relevant ads as well as selling display media on an impression basis. The site is also working on getting referral fees from airlines when users click through and buy on the site, similar to other meta-search engines like Kayak.com and SideStep.com.
Mr. Fridgen said this new model would benefit the airlines, which have been trying to steer customer attention from sites like Expedia.com and Orbitz.com back to their own home pages. He expects airlines to make a comeback this year with direct-to-consumer platforms.
"All of the major airlines are doing better at reducing cost," he said. "Online agency tickets are the lowest-yield business, but airlines are paying the highest amount of fees, so airlines are trying to bring business to a more direct-to-consumer model. We hope to fit into this model and bring business back to the airlines."

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