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THE BIG BARGAIN FOR OCT. 16 TO OCT. 31, 2014
EVA AIR: Taipei in the Original Premium Economy at Bargain Fares
As I mentioned in my Seat 2B column on the rise of premium economy, EVA Air of Taiwan introduced the first branded "fourth class" more than 20 years ago. And the carrier, part of the Star Alliance, continues to offer real value on Elite Class flights to its Taipei hub. From Los Angeles, for example, roundtrip fares are as low as $1,610. There are onward connecting bargains to other Asian cities in coach, too. From New York/Kennedy, prices start as low as $1,798 roundtrip. (There are similar deals from EVA's Canadian gateways of Toronto and Vancouver, too.) Prices are valid until May if you book at the EVA Web site by October 31.
THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE TRAVEL BARGAINS
LOT POLISH: Go East, Young Traveler, and Change in Warsaw
LOT Polish Airlines has revived its Crazy Fares promotion and it's a godsend--if you are headed to Eastern Europe, willing to fly coach and can book by Sunday, October 19. Fares start at $676 roundtrip from New York/Kennedy or Chicago to Warsaw. Connections are also big bargains, including just over $700 roundtrip to Lviv in Western Ukraine; $728 to Sofia, Bulgaria; and $896 to Vilnius, Lithuania. One big buried bargain: Flights to Tel Aviv are startlingly low, just $732 roundtrip from New York and $812 from Chicago. The travel window is wide: from November 2 to December 12 and from January 13 to March 22. Information: the EUROPE page.
MILAN: An Odd Player Makes Milan The New London of Cheap Fares
Not too long ago, when travelers wanted a cheap coach flight to Europe, they started a search in the New York-London market. But high aviation taxes on the British end and too many pond-pounding bankers have made New York-London flights surprisingly pricey. So where are the cheap fares now? Believe it or not, New York-Milan. Ever since Emirates launched a daily flight on the route last year, coach prices to Milan have plummeted. They are now the cheapest in Europe and cheaper than flying to Rome by hundreds of dollars. Alitalia, the route's incumbent, is selling tickets for as little as $661 roundtrip this winter. Depending on dates, U.S. carriers are matching Alitalia on their own nonstops. Emirates, which started the price war, is at $655 roundtrip. And Lufthansa is charging $639 roundtrip when you connect in Frankfurt or Munich. Restrictions are relatively light and you can travel on most days this fall and winter if you book at least a week ahead and include a seven-day stay.
GLOBAL AIRLINE DEALS TO CONSIDER
Oneworld: Big AAdvantage Bonuses for Flying Up Front to Europe This Season
Several Oneworld Alliance carriers--American, US Airways, British Airways, Iberia, Finnair and OpenSkies--really want you to fly to Europe in business- or first-class this fall. The offer: The first roundtrip earns 20,000 American AAdvantage miles. The second earns 40,000 miles and the third earns 65,000 miles. That's a cool 125,000 miles, enough for an off-peak business-class ticket to Europe, for three roundtrips. Advance registration is required (use promo code USF14) and the promotional period extends until January 10. Do check the valid fare codes before you book, however. Information: the FLY TO EUROPE page.
United/Air Canada: Fly to London This Fall and Earn a Bonus or Three
While the Oneworld Alliance is loading up the premium-class bonuses on travel to Europe (see above), Star Alliance partners United Airlines and Air Canada have a much more modest scheme. Their promotion is valid only on flights to London, the payoff is smaller (7,500 miles for the first roundtrip, 10,000 miles for the second and 17,500 for the third for a total of 35,000 miles) and the travel window is smaller (only until December 12). Unlike the Oneworld promotion, however, the United/Air Canada offer includes many coach-class fares as well as business- and first-class tickets. And you can choose either United MileagePlus credit or Air Canada Aeroplan miles. Advance registration is required, of course. Information: the United EARN UP TO 35,000 BONUS or the Air Canada LONDON IS CALLING page.
OpenSkies: Business-Class Deal Worthy of Thanksgiving Dinde in Paris
OpenSkies, the British Airways boutique carrier that flies to Paris/Orly from Newark and New York/Kennedy, has gotten a reputation with savvy travelers as a great way to fly cheap in its spacious premium economy cabin. Now it has a last-minute Thanksgiving deal in business class. For $2,307 roundtrip, you can fly to Paris between November 22 and 28 and return between November 27 and December 2. (You'll find the same deal for Christmas-New Year's flights.) OpenSkies' business class offers British Airways' first-generation, fully flat bed. That's still a better seat than either Delta or Air France, neither of which have completed flat-bed installations in business class on the Paris runs. Information: the BA NEW YORK TO PARIS page.
Swiss International: Elsewhere in Europe for Turkey Day...
Swiss International (and by extension the other Star Alliance carriers) are still quietly promoting Thanksgiving fares in business class. On Swiss, for example, you can fly between New York/Kennedy and Berlin for $2,208 roundtrip. From Chicago/O'Hare, it's $2,597 roundtrip nonstop to Zurich. And it's $3,115 roundtrip to Hamburg from Los Angeles or San Francisco. The travel period is November 22-28 for departures. Return flights are permitted until December 2. Information: the Swiss OFFERS page.
Hainan Airlines: Beijing in Business Class at Substantial Discounts
Hainan Airlines is one of the many little-known Chinese carriers that now fly to the United States. Hainan, however, has much-better-than-Chinese-carrier business class on its Boeing 787 Dreamliners and Airbus A330s. It also discounts fairly heavily compared to its U.S. competitors. Prices are as low as $3,510 roundtrip with a 45-day advance purchase on the Seattle-Beijing nonstop. On Hainan's newest route, Boston/Logan-Beijing, it's just $3,860 roundtrip with no advance purchase required. Fares, including special prices from Chicago and rates with 14-day advance purchase, are valid until at least December 30. Information: the BUSINESS CLASS PROMOTIONS page.
Air New Zealand: Still Another Shot at Rarotonga at Super-Low Fares
Air New Zealand promoted exceptionally cheap business-class fares to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands all summer using its weekly nonstop flight from Los Angeles. Last week it brought back the deal for one more travel period (November 9-16). And now it's added a winter travel window: January 4 to February 1. The price: $1,999 roundtrip. You should know that the LAX-Rarotonga flights still use Air New Zealand's cradle-seat business class, not its newest flat-bed product. But for some winter sun, really cheap, that's hardly a gigantic sacrifice. Tickets must now be purchased by October 22. Information: the Air New Zealand SPECIAL OFFER page.
Europe: Back to the Future (in Business Class) on Icelandair
Icelandair is launching seasonal service between Portland, Oregon, and Reykjavik next year. That will be Icelandair's 14th North American nonstop route and they connect at Reykjavik with service to 20 European cities. Those tidbits might not normally matter to business travelers, but it may be time to go back to the future. Icelandair was for decades popular with bargain hunters who scored low connecting fares via Reykjavik. Now Icelandair has quietly evolved into a carrier that offers low business-class fares to Europe, too. As long as you make that Reykjavik connection, business-class fares from East Coast cities to Icelandair's European destinations are as low as $2,200 roundtrip. And that's without much of an advance purchase or minimum-stay requirement. (Fares are higher from Midwest or Pacific Coast cities and to Icelandair destinations in Southern Europe.) Another nice perk: Business-class fares include a free layover in Reykjavik. But there is a major caveat: Business class on Icelandair's fleet of Boeing 757s isn't great. There are no flat beds and seats, configured 2x2, offer just 40 inches of legroom. Another consideration: Icelandair's Saga Club points aren't flexible. The carrier no longer partners with a U.S. carrier and only permits redemptions on Icelandair, Finnair or with Hilton or Radisson hotels. Still, when you need a last-minute ride to Europe, can't justify walk-up business fares on other carriers and want to avoid coach, check Icelandair.
Air Canada: 50 Percent Aeroplan Bonus for Flights When You Book Ahead
Air Canada flyers willing to book and pay for tickets by October 31 can earn a 50 percent bonus for flights between October 1 and April 30. To get the bonus, you need to register in advance and apply your Aeroplan number to all reservations. The bonus is valid on Air Canada, Air Canada Express and Air Canada Rouge flights. Information: the 50 PERCENT MORE 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 14. Tickets need to be booked at a special AARP link at the BA Web site. Information: the EXCLUSIVE AARP OFFERS page.
LAN: The Crazy-Quilt South America Business-Class Sale Is Back Again
With premium-class flight deals to South America so rare, we should continue to be thankful for the bargains from LAN, the pan-Latin powerhouse. Yes, the deals are scattershot, with varying restrictions, several infuriating regulations and odd travel windows. But you'll find some fabulous bargains (although not from Los Angeles, where prices seem insane). Best current fares of note from New York: $999 roundtrip from Kennedy to Guayaquil or Quito, Ecuador. (Quito, by the way, is the gateway to the Galapagos Islands.) From Miami, it's $699 roundtrip to Bogota and $1,199 to Lima. By the way, LAN is a Oneworld Alliance member. Information: the PREMIUM BUSINESS page.
Emirates: India's Stagnant Economy Means Business-Class Bargains
Years of economic malaise haven't just meant that India's Congress Party got an unprecedented shellacking in recent elections, it also means that airlines, who've frantically expanded on the subcontinent, are promoting heavily. Emirates, for example, is promising as much as 50 percent off business-class fares through the end of the year so long as you book 14 days in advance and lock in tickets before November 30. Fares start as low as $4,580 roundtrip from Dallas/Fort Worth and include $4,701 from Boston and $5,081 from Los Angeles or San Francisco. The deals are for all Emirates gateways in the United States to all of its destinations in India, including Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi. Hyderabad and Chennai. There are no blackout dates, but the lowest fares require a seven-day minimum stay. Information: the UNMISSABLE BUSINESS CLASS page.
Virgin America: Please Join Our Frequent Flyer Program
When there was real competition in the airline industry, there was real competition in frequent flyer plans, too. There used to be bonuses for things like joining and bonus credit for taking your first flight. Those have long passed from the scene, but Virgin America is reviving them in hopes of getting attention from flyers "trapped in a dysfunctional relationship" with another carrier. If you join Virgin's Elevate plan, you'll get a 500-point bonus for signing up and 2,500 to 7,500 points (depending on class) after your first flight. The promotion lasts until December 31. Information: the LOYALTY MADE ME DO IT page.
American Airlines: Asia Bonuses Just Like Our Europe Bonuses
American Airlines' small (and newish) slate of flights to Asia--Chicago to Shanghai and Dallas/Fort Worth to Hong Kong and Shanghai--aren't profitable. So American has adopted the formula it uses in Europe (see below): Ply you with miles in hopes of getting you to fly. The structure is the same, too. Fly in discounted coach and earn a bonus of 5,000 AAdvantage miles for a roundtrip. Fly higher-priced coach and get a 10,000-mile roundtrip bonus. Fly first or business class and earn 25,000 miles roundtrip. The promotion is available through December 6 and requires advance registration. You can earn as many as 100,000 points during the promotional period. Information: the EARN UP TO 100,000 BONUS MILES page.
HOTEL BARGAINS WORTH NOTING
Starwood Preferred Guest: Double and Triple Points, Then Repeat
It says a lot about this season's wan hotel promotions that they all seem familiar (see below). That's because they've all been done before, give or take a rule or two. The new Starwood Preferred Guest offer is a repeat, too: double Starpoints for stays of two nights or longer and triple Starpoints for weekend stays. The promotion requires registration by October 31, but you can earn for stays from September 15 to December 15. And note that the definition of a weekend stay varies depending on region. One unhappy surprise: There are a large number of hotels opting out of this promotion. See the full list here. Information: the THAT'S MORE LIKE IT page.
Club Carlson: 3,000-Point Bonuses for Booking by App
You have to assume that Club Carlson really wants you to download and use its app. Why? Once you download it, you'll earn 3,000 bonus Gold Points for every booking you make via the app until November 16. Versions are available for both iPhone and Android phones. One caveat: You'll only earn the bonus for stays that are completed by November 16. Information: the DOWNLOAD. BOOK. EARN. page.
IHG Rewards Club: Two Free Nights or 50,000 Points--or Something Like It
IHG Rewards, which covers InterContinental Hotels, Holiday Inn Express, Crowne Plaza and several other brands, is overly enamored of convoluted, mass-customized promotions. The current one is called Into the Nights and you can earn bonuses in a number of ways: nights stayed, use of the mobile app, staying weekends, staying in a series of IHG brands, taking surveys or using the Chase-affiliated credit card. InterContinental is publicly promising two free nights at any of its properties or as many as 50,000 points, although IHG Rewards members report richer offers are available, too. The promotion lasts until December 31. What you'll need to do and what you can earn is revealed only when you register here.
Marriott Rewards: The MegaBonus Was Never Mega, Now It's a MiniBonus
The endlessly repeated Megabonus from Marriott Rewards was never particularly "mega"--not to mention that Marriott chipped away at its value in recent years. But the latest iteration is downright mini. Instead of a free night after two stays at a lower-priced hotel (once Category 1-5, lately Category 1-4), the bonus structure this time has been vastly devalued. The published offer this time is double points per stay and only beginning on the second stay during the September 15 to January 15 promotional period. The amount of bonus points is capped at 25,000 and advance registration is required by November 15. As usual with MegaBonus, you may be offered an unpublished deal. (Check your promo page.) We know that some members have been offered as many as 55,000 points. Information: the MEGABONUS page.
Hyatt: Introductory Rate in Jamaica--and Don't Call Us Ritzy
Hyatt Hotels is carving up the former Ritz-Carlton Rose Hill in Montego Bay and turning the Jamaican resort into two all-inclusive properties: the family-friendly Ziva and the couples-only Zilara. Both are due to open on November 1. To goose occupancy at the Ziva property, Hyatt is offering 50 percent off the normal rate for the first year if you book quickly. The promotion is valid from November 1, 2014, until December 1, 2015 when you book by October 31, 2014. There are blackout dates and a three-day minimum stay during the upcoming Christmas holiday. Information: the OFFERS page.
Hilton HHonors: A One-in-Three Chance You Can't Have This Promotion
Hilton HHonors has been so devalued that even its promotions aren't reliable and a slew of the chain's own franchises don't want to play. The new points deal offers double points on weekdays and triple points on weekends between August 1 and October 31. But more than 1,300 Hilton Family properties, the vast majority of them in the United States, won't even honor the promotion. You can see the astonishing list of opt-outs here. If you want to play in the hobbled promotion, you must register in advance here.
GROUND TRANSPORTATION DEALS WORTH YOUR TIME
Avis: Quadruple American AAdvantage Miles Worldwide Until November 30
Mileage offers are drying up everywhere else, but there continues to be relative gold miles in the car-rent arena. The latest from Avis is quadruple American AAdvantage miles on virtually any rental worldwide. Use coupon code #MUAA088 for rentals before November 30. Information: the Avis WINDOW SEAT'S OPEN page.
Enterprise: The Return of the $10-a-Day Weekend Rental
Even as it has rocketed to the top of the car-rental heap, Enterprise continues to do things differently. For starters, all of its locations are company owned, astonishing in this era of franchised everything. It has expanded rapidly at airports, but its roots remain in the we'll-pick-you-up local station. And many of those local stations close on Sunday with short hours on Saturday. The result: a ridiculously wonderful promotion that offers cars as low as $9.99 a weekend day, so long as you return the car on Monday. The $9.99 rate covers economy or compact cars. Larger cars are $14.99-$19.99 a day. The rates include 100 miles per day and are valid for rentals that start on Fridays. Best of all, the promotion is valid at local stations until May 20. Information: Enterprise's WEEKEND SPECIAL page.
Amtrak: Double Points on Train Travel Before Thanksgiving
Okay, let's be realistic. This offer will appeal almost exclusively to business travelers in the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington. But all Amtrak riders can score double Guest Rewards points for rides until November 14. All you need to do is register in advance. The one caveat: You can only earn double points for two one-way trips per day. Information: the DOUBLE DAYS page.
National Car Rental: The Best Car-Rental Bonus Ever Is Back Again
Sometimes the old classics are the best and that's certainly true for National's OneTwoFREE promotion. Two rentals of a midsize car by January 31 earn a free rental night that you can use by June 15. As usual, National has thrown in a few wrinkles to pique your continued interest. You'll get credit for any size rental in Mexico, referring a friend who rents and some credit for downloading the National app and other social-media kinds of things. 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.
American Airlines/National Car: 200 Miles a Day for Rentals
Let's be honest: 200 miles won't change your life. But given how few miles car rentals generate and how frequently we rent, it's probably not wise to sneeze at the new promotion from American Airlines and National Car Rental. You'll earn 200 miles a day when renting from any participating National location in the United States until December 31. You must rent a compact through full-size vehicle. Information: the EARN 200 MILES 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. The promotion is available until December 31. Information: the ALWAYS ROOM FOR MORE page.
Thrifty: Three-Day Midsize Rentals Earn 1,000 MileagePlus Miles
After more than a decade of sitting out the frequent flyer game, the car-rental firms seem to be returning to the mileage fray. The latest deal: 1,000 United MileagePlus miles from Thrifty Car Rental if you rent a midsize or larger vehicle for three days or longer. The deal is available until December 31 when you use promo code UA31. Information: the PARTNER DEALS page.
NOTABLE CREDIT CARD ACQUISITION BONUSES
Hilton HHonors: The Price of Its 'Best' Elite Level Is $95 Again
Hilton has brutally devalued the Hilton HHonors program and its most-elite level, Diamond, is hardly better than HHonors Gold, which normally requires 20 stays or 40 nights a year. Gold Elite offers free Internet, room upgrades and continental breakfast. It's arguably Hilton's best elite level. And guess what: You don't even have to stay at Hilton even once to achieve its HHonors Gold. The Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Visa card includes Gold Level HHonors status and the annual fee is just $95 a year. So here's the best lodging strategy ever: Take the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Visa, pay the $95 annual fee, get Gold Level--and then stay at Marriott, Starwood, Hyatt, Carlson or other hotels so you can earn elite status there. Book a Hilton Family property only when there are no other options. You'll still get Gold Level treatment and all of your other paid stays will be earning elite status elsewhere. Information: the ENJOY TWO page.
Marriott Rewards: 70,000-Point Acquisition Bonus, Low Spend Requirement
Got a thousand dollars in credit-card spend available? Then grab a Marriott Rewards Premier card from Chase. Taking the card will earn you a 70,000-point acquisition bonus when you spend $1,000 in the first three months. The card has no annual fee in the first year and is bundled with a free night in a Category 1-4 Marriott property and enough elite credit for Silver status in Marriott Rewards. Information: the EARN 70,000 BONUS POINTS page.
Chase: How to Get the $395-a-Year United Club Card for Free for a Year
The Chase United Club Card does well both as a must-carry credit card for perks (it includes a membership in the United Club) and one that earns lots of frequent travel points (1.5 miles per dollar spent). If the card has a drawback--besides being shackled to United Airlines, of course--it's the $395-a-year annual fee. But there is a way get the fee waived in the first year. It's pretty simple: Go into a Chase bank branch and apply for the card there. Branch bankers are empowered to waive the fee when you apply for the card in person.
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THE FINE PRINT Nobody pays their way onto this page. I post the deals solely for the benefit of members based on my perception of what is a great price or a terrific value. The prices do not include applicable taxes unless specifically stated. Assume there are weird restrictions and caveats I never thought to ask about. Unless otherwise stated, you should be able to book these deals at any travel agency or directly from the listed travel supplier. Never assume that these prices (or any price listed publicly) are the lowest that are available. You should always ask if thereís a cheaper price or better deal. Virtually everything is capacity controlled or subject to blackout days, based on availability and subject to abrupt change whenever they think they can squeeze us for a few extra bucks. Please do not suspend your inbred skepticism. Donít blame me if these deals are sold out when you try to book at these prices, but do let me know if you think that we're being scammed. It's important to expose the fakers and phonies. -- Joe Brancatelli
This column is Copyright © 2014 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2014 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.