Steals & Deals for September 3-17, 2015
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FINNAIR: Let Us Fly You Really, Really Cheap to Russia or China. Please!
These are hard times for Finnair, sitting at the top of the world and watching its main transatlantic routes--flights between the U.S. and Russia--shrivel thanks to the ongoing embargo. It's also having a rough go convincing U.S. travelers to use Helsinki as a gateway to Asia. So it's understandable that Finnair posted shockingly low business-class fares to several destinations in Russia and China. On the Russia front, the price from Chicago is just $1,799 roundtrip to five cities, including Moscow and St. Petersburg. To China, it's just $2,499 to Chongqing or Xian. Better yet, there's only a five-day minimum stay. A stayover in Helsinki is also available if you book by phone and pay a service charge. Tickets must be purchased by September 22 for travel until October 17. Information: the Finnair OFFERS page.

THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE BARGAINS
BRITISH AIRWAYS/IBERIA: A Year of Business-Class Fare Sales on a Chart
British Airways and its Oneworld partner Iberia have taken to posting a year's worth of business-class fare sales for nearly two dozen destinations in Great Britain and continental Europe. Some examples: $2,208 roundtrip from New York to Stockholm in November and December; $2,294 roundtrip from Boston to Barcelona between January and May; $2,836 roundtrip from Chicago and Vienna in November and December; $3,344 from San Francisco to Edinburgh from November to January and $3,162 roundtrip from Los Angeles to Berlin in November and December. All of the fares include a 7-day stay requirement, but expect advance-purchase and other rules to apply on a market-specific basis. You can also assume travel could include flights on American Airlines and other Oneworld partners. Best of all, the year-ahead grid allows you to plug in any departure and arrival cities as well as your proposed number of days and find a year's worth of business-class prices. Information: the BA CHEAP FLIGHTS TO EUROPE page.

AMERICAN EXPRESS: Get a Starwood Preferred Card With Extra Bonus Points and New Perks
The charm of most Starwood hotels escapes me, but Starwood Preferred points are valuable because they transfer to dozens of airline programs, almost all of them at excellent exchange rates. So if you're playing the game, now might be the time to grab a Starwood Preferred American Express card. The acquisition bonus has been bumped up to 30,000 points and the card itself has been improved. Amex has dropped the foreign-exchange fee and gives you free Boingo WiFi. The card also gets you free premium-speed Internet access at Starwood properties. The 30,000-point acquisition bonus--you must spend $3,000 in the first three months--is available for new applications by September 14. Information: the EARN 30,000 page.

CATHAY PACIFIC: A Big Bundle of Bonus Asia Miles for Hong Kong Flights
Cathay Pacific apparently wants U.S.-originating premium-class travelers to credit their flights to Cathay's Asia Miles program rather than Oneworld partner American Airlines' AAdvantage plan. How else to explain the big bundle of bonus Asia Miles Cathay is offering if you fly to Hong Kong between September 15 and November 30. For premium-economy flights, it's double miles for fare categories W, R and E. If you're booking in business-class buckets J, C, D, or I, it's triple miles. You'll get quadruple miles for first class (F or A class) travel. As for the payoff, a roundtrip to Hong Kong in premium-class at double miles will get you halfway to a premium-economy roundtrip award on British Airways from San Francisco to London. Advance registration is required, of course. Information: the Asia Miles AIRLINE page.

SOUTHERN ITALY: Archeology, Food, Great Guides--and 10 Percent Off for Members
As you can see by the Elifant Tours Web site, the company's Basilicata and Puglia tour from April 4-11, 2016, is a fine combination of archeological discovery, delightful dining, UNESCO World Heritage sites and personal discovery. The focus is on small-group, top-drawer experiences. And you'll be visiting several of the last places in Italy that haven't been totally overrun with tourists. You'll be met in Bari and escorted by Maureen Fant and Elizabeth Bartman, who have put together a wonderful series of site visits, private tours, food and wine tastings and many extras. The all-inclusive price is $6,500 a person, but Elifant is extending a discount exclusively to JoeSentMe members. For us, it's $5,850 a person--and there's no single supplement. If you want to join the small group at the discount, contact Maureen and Elizabeth at Elifanttours@gmail.com and identify yourself as a JoeSentMe member.


LAST CALL: THESE DEALS END SOON
LOT POLISH AIRLINES: Yes, the Fares Are Crazy--and Sometimes in Polish
Even as a member of Star Alliance, LOT tends to go its own way on fares. An example: LOT's annual late-summer sale for winter and fall travel. All three of its classes--coach, premium economy and business--are included and some of the fares are insanely cheap. New York-Moscow, for example, is as low as $414 roundtrip in coach and about $1,800 in business class. New York or Chicago to Krakow is $670 roundtrip in coach. Business-class travel to many European destinations via LOT's Warsaw hub is under $2,500 roundtrip although nonstops to Warsaw tend to be a few hundred dollars higher. The travel window is gigantic: from December 1 through June 30. There are blackout dates--December 15 to January 12 and March 21 through April 4--which, crazily, coincide with when the Star Alliance promotes its Christmas/New Year and Easter sales. LOT says about a half-million seats are available at the sale prices. Tickets must be purchased by September 13 and you'll have to commit to a Sunday-night stay. And be warned: If a fare is not available, you'll get an error page--in Polish--and you're not sure what you're being told. Unless, you know, you speak Polish. Information: the LOT BIG SALE page.

DELTA AIR LINES: China Cheap in Coach From Chosen Cities
The Chinese economy hasn't tanked, but when you set a 7 percent baseline for growth, well, it doesn't take much to upset the financial applecart. So Delta is suddenly struggling to fill seats on its growing number of China flights. The solution? Lots of cheap seats in coach to selected cities. Sample roundtrip prices to Beijing: $739 from Seattle; $777 from Los Angeles and $867 from Boston. Sample roundtrip prices to Shanghai: $742 from San Diego; $762 from Las Vegas and $910 from New York/JFK. Outbound travel is permitted from October 20 to December 3 and returns are allowed until June 3. Tickets must be purchased by September 8 and there is a laundry list of city-specific blackout dates. There's a 10-day minimum stay, too. Information: the CHINA FALL SALE page.

AER LINGUS: The Summer Business-Class Sale Lasts Through October If You Hurry
Aer Lingus may or may not be purchased by the parent company of British Airways, but it has expanded its U.S. route network and rolled out a spiffy new business-class product featuring lie-flat beds, 16-inch monitors and free WiFi plus perks such as pre-flight dining and new lounges at New York/JFK and London/Heathrow. And it has even extended its summer business-class sale through at least October 24 if you purchase tickets by September 15. Prices start at $2,499 roundtrip (New York to Shannon or Dublin or Boston to Shannon) and include $2,679 for Chicago to Dublin. There is a 28-day advance purchase restriction and a Saturday-stay is required. Information: the Aer Lingus NEW EXPERIENCE page.

AIR NEW ZEALAND: Okay, Baby, How About $2,299 Business Class to the South Pacific?
Sometimes it's just flat-out fun to follow these extraordinary deals as airlines test and figure out how to fill an aircraft. As you surely know by now, Air New Zealand promoted exceptionally cheap business-class fares to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands spasmodically last year using its nonstop flight from Los Angeles. The eye-opening price was just $1,998 roundtrip. The deal has been regularly revived at about $2,199. Most recently, however, it's been $1,998 roundtrip again. The current price is a bit higher--$2,299 roundtrip--but the travel window is wider, between November 15 and February 6. You should know that the LAX-Rarotonga flights still use Air New Zealand's cradle-seat business class, not its newest flat beds. And there's only one flight a week in each direction, departing Sundays from LAX and just before midnight Saturdays from Rarotonga. Still, for a South Pacific trip at such a low price, those aren't tough conditions. Tickets must be purchased by September 8. You even earn frequent flyer miles. Information: the Air New Zealand SPECIAL OFFER page.


YEAR-END BUSINESS-CLASS EUROPE SALES
DELTA AIR LINES: Okay, We'll Play in the Year-End Business-Class Europe Sales Now
Delta Air Lines has never shown much interest in playing in the year-end business-class fare sales to Europe that many travelers use for holiday travel. But this year, with transatlantic traffic down and SkyMiles prices up, Delta is suddenly looking to move premium-class seats over the Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year holiday. So Delta is out with some interesting--if not groundbreaking--prices. From its New York/Kennedy hub, for example, fares start at $2,157 roundtrip to Brussels and $2,218 to Frankfurt. It's $2,266 roundtrip from Newark to Amsterdam. Especially notable: just $2,274 roundtrip to Zurich from Kennedy and surprisingly reasonable rates to Paris ($2,286). Fares are less notable, but still competitive, from Atlanta and Detroit, too. Expect similar pricing on SkyTeam carriers such as KLM, Air France and Alitalia. As with the Star Alliance sale (see below), travel is permitted between November 21-27 outbound and November 26-December 2 for returns. For the end-of-year holidays, outbound travel is permitted between December 14 and January 2 and returns allowed between December 21 and January 6. (There are some blackout dates to Paris.) But you have to hurry: Tickets must be purchased by September 7. A three-day minimum-stay is required. Information: the DELTA ONE SALE page.

LUFTHANSA: Our Thanksgiving Business-Class Europe Sale Is On
United Airlines (fka Continental) originated the concept of holiday business-class sales, but it has consistently downplayed the concept in recent years. Not Lufthansa, its Star Alliance partner, which operates to nearly two dozen U.S. and Canadian cities and has more planes with premium cabins than any other carrier in the world. In other words, it needs to fill seats when business travelers are otherwise content to sit home. This year's Thanksgiving business-class sale from the German behemoth pegs prices as low as $2,219 roundtrip (New York-Frankfurt). Other fares include Boston-Brussels for $2,449 roundtrip; Miami-Munich for $2,709 and Los Angeles-Zurich for $3,169. Outbound travel is permitted November 21-27 with returns allowed between November 26 and December 2. Tickets must be purchased by September 14. Information: the Lufthansa TREAT YOURSELF page.

HOTEL POINTS AND PRICE PROMOTIONS
MARRIOTT REWARDS: Another By-the-Numbers MegaBonus Promotion
You have to wonder if Marriott is even trying anymore. Its fall promotion is another MegaBonus game where the offer is mass-customized "just for you." The published offer--double points per stay starting with the second stay--is a typical yawner. You'll have to log in to your promotions page to see your offer. The promotional period, September 15 to January 15, is Marriott standard, too. You must register by November 15 to play. Information: the Marriott MEGABONUS page.

STARWOOD HOTELS: 20 Percent Off Luxury Domestic Weekends--If You Jump Through Hoops
Thirty of Starwood's Luxury Collection and St. Regis properties in the continental United States, Hawaii and Puerto Rico are trying to goose weekend occupancy. Their offer: 20 percent off the best available rate for a two-night weekend stay if you charge your booking to a MasterCard. But there are plenty of restrictions. The stay can't be less than or more than two nights. It must begin Thursday-Saturday for stays between Thursday and Monday. And you must pay for your room at the time of reservation. There are blackout restrictions and capacity controls, too. But, you know, really, they want you to come... Information: the PRICELESS CITIES page.

HYATT: 15 Percent Off on Dozens of Hotels for Months and Months
Hyatt has rolled out a targeted, but quite useful, sale that runs through March 31. If you're headed to Hawaii, Phoenix, San Diego or the District of Columbia, the chain's My Hyatt Rate promotion knocks 15 percent off standard prices. The only caveat: You must be a member of the Hyatt Gold Passport program. The sale covers five hotels and resorts in Hawaii; nine hotels in the Phoenix area; eight hotels and resorts in and around San Diego and five hotels in Washington. Information: the MY HYATT RATE page.

HILTON HHONORS: Double or Triple HHonors Points Through the End of the Year
Hilton has so devalued HHonors, it's hard to tell whether its seasonal promotions are even worth giving the program a second look. But if you are playing HHonors and staying at Hilton Family properties, the so-called Triple Your Trip promotion is better than a sharp (or even a dull) stick in the eye. The offer is double base points for stays on Monday through Thursday and triple points for weekend nights. The promotion runs from September 1 to December 31 and it does look like all Hilton-branded properties are playing. Advance registration is required, of course. Information: the HILTON HHONORS page.

ELEMENT HOTELS: Buy Four Nights, Get Two Free Until the End of the Year
Starwood Hotels is struggling: Profits are down, the company is for sale and there isn't even a permanent chief executive. So there are lots of promotions on offer just now. One of the most interesting (and, frankly, weirdest) is what we can only call a BFGT (buy four, get two) from Element, the chain's ostentatiously eco-friendly extended-stay chain. The deal offers two additional free nights if you book a four-night minimum stay. The promotion is available until December 31 when you arrive Wednesday to Saturday and pay for your reservation in advance. All Element stays include breakfast and an evening reception. You'll also earn SPG points. Information: the STAY FOUR NIGHTS page.

SHERATON: Desperation Is the Mother of a Decent Summer Promotion
Starwood Hotels recently ousted its chief executive and one of the causes was Sheraton, a tired brand that has resisted all attempts to revive its market luster or many of its well-worn properties. So when you're desperate, give the product away. A Free Weekends offer is fairly straight up: Stay five nights at any Sheraton until September 30 and earn a free weekend night at any Sheraton worldwide. The free night can be used until December 13 and you can earn as many as three freebies during the promotion. Better yet, the weekend offer "stacks" with Starwood Preferred Guest's current chainwide summer points promotion. The one catch? Registration is required. Information: the RICHEST SHERATON PROMOTION page.

GLOBAL AIRLINE DEALS TO CONSIDER
LA COMPAGNIE: Surprisingly Cheap Summer Business-Class Prices to London and Paris
La Compagnie, the Paris-based all-business-class carrier, is approaching its first birthday and is now flying from Newark to both Roissy and London's Luton Airport. The service, on 74-seat Boeing 757s, features a sort of throwback business class: limited schedules, angled flat seats, simple meals and tablet-based entertainment. But La Compagnie continues to excel in promotional pricing. The deals now: $1,699 roundtrip to Paris and $1,798 to London. The fares are valid on select flights until September 30 if you book by September 15. Information: the DEALS AND SPECIAL OFFERS page.

EMIRATES: U.S. Carriers Won't Compete, So We'll Slash India Business-Class Fares
The three big U.S. carriers continue to whine that the three big Gulf carriers--including Emirates of Dubai--are dumping capacity in the U.S. market and being subsidized by their governments. What the U.S. carriers won't say, of course, is that they literally refuse to compete with the Gulf carriers. No U.S. airline flies to Abu Dhabi, home of Etihad, or Doha, home of Qatar Airways. There are only two U.S. carrier routes to Dubai. And in India, where Gulf carriers funnel a disproportionate number of U.S.-originating flyers, only United Airlines offers any routes. American and Delta have dropped all their India runs. So it has to be with some degree of knife-twisting that Emirates has launched a business-class sale on India flights via Dubai from its U.S. gateways. Prices to Emirates' 10 Indian destinations start at $4,694 roundtrip from Dallas/Worth Worth. Other samples: $4,758 from New York, $5,159 from Los Angeles and $4,809 from Washington. Restrictions are modest: a 7-day minimum stay and 14-day advance purchase. Travel is permitted until December 10 if you book by November 30. Information: the Emirates EXTRAORDINARY BUSINESS CLASS page.

BRITISH AIRWAYS: Discounts Up to $400 Roundtrip for AARP Members
British Airways and AARP have run this promotion before and it's worth claiming again. As an AARP member, you'll receive $65 off a roundtrip coach seat, $130 on premium-economy fares and $400 on business or first-class flights. The deal is valid for flights until March 31 when you book by October 31. Tickets need to be booked at a special AARP link at the BA Web site. Information: the EXCLUSIVE AARP OFFERS page.

GROUND TRANSPORT DEALS WORTH YOUR TIME
NATIONAL CAR RENTAL: The Best Car-Rental Bonus Ever Is Back Again
Sometimes the classics are the best and that's certainly true for National's One Two Free promotion. Two rentals of a midsize car by January 31 earn a free rental day that you can use by June 15. As has been the case in recent years, the points-based system offers 300 points per qualifying rental. It takes 600 points for a freebie. And as usual, National has thrown in a few wrinkles to pique your continued interest. You'll get a one-time bonus of 300 points for any size rental in Latin America, the Caribbean or Europe. You'll also receive 300 bonus points for every renter you refer to the Emerald Club. Downloading and using National's app gets you 75 bonus points per rental up to a maximum of 300 points. You can earn as many as 50 free rental days during the promotion. Advance registration and membership in the National Emerald Aisle program is required. Information: the ONETWOFREE page.

AVIS: 500 American AAdvantage Miles for Three-Day Rentals
Mileage offers are drying up everywhere else, but there continue to be relative gold mines in the car-rent arena. The latest from Avis is 500 American AAdvantage miles on virtually any rental worldwide. However, you will have to do a three-day rental for those miles, which isn't nearly as generous as the previous 500-mile-per-day offer. Use coupon code #MUAA062 for rentals that begin by October 31. Information: the Avis MORE MILES FOR THE DRIVE page.

UNITED/HERTZ: 2,000 Miles (or More) for Mid-Size Rentals (Even One-Day Rentals)
It's hard to think of more dysfunctional suppliers in the business-travel world than United Airlines and Hertz. And maybe this offer is a tangible representation of exactly how desperately the two companies need to keep us on board. Through October 31, you'll earn a bonus of 1,500 MileagePlus miles when you rent a mid-size or larger vehicle from Hertz. Even one-day rentals will earn the bonus. Even better, the 1,500-mile score is in addition to the standard per-rental payoff of 500 MileagePlus miles or 750-1,250 miles for elite members. So that's a total of 2,000 miles or more per rental. You can certainly run up a lot of MileagePlus credits when you drive off with a Hertz rental. The problem, of course, is that it requires you to do business with Hertz and book through United.com. But, hey, everything has a price. Information: United's EARN AWARD MILES page.

BUDGET: Rent a Car, Get Sextuple the Train Miles. Makes Sense. Sorta.
If you're one of those business travelers who don't like leaving the road (literally), there's an opportunity: six times the Amtrak Guest Rewards points when you rent a Budget car. The promotion runs through September 30 if you use coupon number MUAZ078. Information: the RIGHT TRACK page.

AVIS/CARLSON: 9,000 Club Carlson Points for Three-Day Rentals
Car rentals are suddenly a valuable source of points and miles again thanks to the proprietary bonus deals that the rental chains are cutting with airlines and hotel chains. Avis, for example, has once again teamed with Club Carlson, the loyalty program of Radisson and Country Inns. The offer: three-day rentals from most airport locations earn 9,000 bonus points. Use code MUHA021. And, boy, are these guys convinced they're BFFs: The promotion is available until December 31, 2015. Information: the ALWAYS ROOM FOR MORE page.

NOTABLE CREDIT CARD ACQUISITION BONUSES
CHASE: Take a United Business Card, Get 50,000 MileagePlus Miles
With the major airlines now essentially locked in to a partner bank, lavish super-duper acquisition bonuses have largely disappeared. But here's a way to pick up a 50,000-mile bonus essentially free. Chase has bumped up the acquisition bonus on the business version of its MileagePlus Explorer card to the 50,000-mile plateau. All you need do is spend $2,000 on the card during the first three months. Chase will even comp the first year's annual fee of $95. The card itself has some good benefits: no foreign exchange fees; first checked bag free; a pair of United Club passes each year, and primary car-rental coverage. Carrying the card also means United waives the expiration date on your MileagePlus balance. Information: the FOR BUSINESS OWNERS page.

This column is Copyright 2015 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2015 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.