Steals & Deals for Early July, 2016
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LONDON: Decent Two-Seat Business Fares From American Airlines and British Airways
Even with coach fares to Europe falling through the floor (see below), business class prices have remained surprisingly high. But here's something of a break: substantially lower fares to London from Oneworld Alliance carriers American Airlines and British Airways. The catch? The prices are based on two flyers traveling together. From New York, for example, it's $2,287 roundtrip per person. From Los Angeles, it's $3,544. From Houston, it's $3,233. From Tampa, it's $2,455. From Philadelphia, it's $2,311. Those are American Airlines prices. BA's quoted prices seem to be a few dollars cheaper. Travel is permitted from July 12 to May 31 when you book 14 days in advance and stay over on a Saturday night. Tickets must be purchased by July 7. Information: the American Airlines FARE SALE TO LONDON and the British Airways FLIGHTS TO THE UK page.
THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE BARGAINS
EUROPE: When Things Are Rotten, Airlines Act Like Airlines. And Good for Us!
Airlines have been saying for several years that they'd learned the lesson of the last few decades. We'd never see fare wars or insanely low prices again because they were too smart for that, they assured the world. But low oil prices, a bit too much capacity and sudden turmoil, both political and terroristic, is showing that airlines are pretty much what they've always been. The results? Stupendously low coach fares to Europe from August through the end of March. Fares so low, in fact, that you can buy several and create a poor flyer's business class. Here are some of the prices I've seen this week for travel during the next few months with modest advance purchase and manageable minimum stays:
Alitalia is offering roundtrips from New York to Bucharest for $654 roundtrip and $765 from Miami to Athens.
Aer Lingus is selling seats from Boston to Shannon for $599 roundtrip and $549 from Hartford to Dublin.
Air France has $630 roundtrip fares from San Francisco to Paris and $599 fares from Los Angeles to Barcelona.
KLM is promoting Houston-Amsterdam nonstops for $607 roundtrip and Los Angeles to Milan connecting service for $677 roundtrip.
LOT Polish is flying from New York or Chicago for as little as $678 roundtrip to Krakow and $830 to Sofia, Bulgaria.
SAS Scandinavian is selling seats on New York-to-Copenhagen runs for $597 roundtrip. San Francisco-Stockholm flights are going for as little as $696 roundtrip.
Best way to find the best fares? Fire up ITA Software and use the monthly calendar. You'll be amazed what you'll find. How long the low fares will last is anyone's guess, of course.
JETBLUE AIRWAYS: We'll Match Your Virgin America Balance If You Fly Us Once
Just when you think there's nothing new under the frequent flying sun, a totally over-the-top offer comes around. This one is from JetBlue Airways, which is hoping to lure disaffected Virgin America flyers who may not want to be a part of the merged Alaska Airlines. JetBlue TrueBlue is offering to match your Virgin America Elevate balance. No, not a status match. Your entire existing points balance. If you prove to JetBlue by July 4 what you've amassed in Elevate, JetBlue will give you an equal or greater amount of TrueBlue points. The only catch? You have to fly one JetBlue roundtrip by August 31 after your balance match has been approved. Needless to say this could be a bonanza if you're a heavy Virgin player. Complete details are here.
AIR NEW ZEALAND: Notably Reasonable Premium Economy Fares to New Zealand
Air New Zealand operates a top-notch premium economy cabin to its home country with excellent seat room, upgraded meals and plenty of other good perks. Now there are good prices to go with the service. From Los Angeles or San Francisco, it's $2,199 roundtrip to Auckland. From ANZ's newish Houston/Intercontinental gateway, it's $2,513 roundtrip to Auckland. Flights are available on various dates through May 31 if you purchase tickets by July 11. There isn't even a minimum-stay restriction. Information: the PREMIUM ECONOMY SPECIAL page.
EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNTS FOR MEMBERS
Now a part of IAG, the parent company of British Airways and Iberia, Aer Lingus has created a spacious and sophisticated transatlantic business class service to Dublin from many North American gateways. It has also built an extensive European network from its Dublin hub and hometown.
The Aer Lingus Offer: Receive a free roundtrip coach ticket to any Aer Lingus destination in Europe when you purchase an Aer Lingus business class seat to Dublin. Travel is permitted until August 31 from any Aer Lingus gateway in the United States or Canada. Stopovers in Dublin are permitted.
How to claim the offer: Surf here for complete details and information.
As the ground-transportation landscape has changed, we have a wide range of new global choices to get us to, from and around airports and cities. I favor Groundlink because it blends the traditional comfort, reliability and professionalism of black-car service with the price benefits and convenience of app-based ride-hail operations.
The Groundlink Offer: Receive 20 percent off rides when you book them using the GroundLink app.
How to claim the offer: Download the GroundLink app from the Apple or Android stores or the GroundLink.com Web site. Enter JOESENTME in the promo code box that will appear on the screen before you confirm your ride. The 20 percent discount will be applied to your ride price.
Owned by a journalist and operating for nearly 40 years, Cook Travel specializes in discount international business and first class fares and supplies premium seats at a substantial savings. Cook Travel also offers upgrades from full-fare coach on many international airlines. It also has net fares for substantial savings on last-minute travel.
The Cook Travel Offer: Receive 10% off published fares on SkyTeam international business and first class tickets. Receive 5% off published fares on Star Alliance international business and first class tickets. Complimentary upgrades on most airlines when available to business class from full-fare international economy. Booking fees for international tickets waived.
How to claim the offer: Call 800-435-8776 and identify yourself as a JoeSentMe member.
SHEFFIELD SPICE & TEA COMPANY
Sheffield has a shop in Las Vegas, where it has won raves for its unique products, offerings, recipes and service. But it has also launched a gorgeous Web site and has been winning customers from around the world. There are literally hundreds of products on offer: a dazzling range of carefully chosen teas, familiar and exotic spices, custom blends and rubs, chilis, oils and vinegars, sugars and accessories. In other words, everything a business traveler with taste needs to eat and drink better.
The Sheffield Spice & Tea Offer: Receive 15% off all purchases.
How to claim the offer: Surf to SheffieldSpices.com and when you reach the shopping cart page, enter this code in the coupon code box: joesentme2016
HOTEL POINTS AND PRICE PROMOTIONS
LOEWS HOTELS: A Bundle of Goodies to Go With Your Giants Tickets
The San Francisco Giants are back atop the National League's Western Division and, if you've got tickets to a game, the Loews Regency San Francisco Hotel has a nifty bundle for you. The so-called Game Day Getaway includes transportation to AT&T Park, the lovely bayfront home of the Giants. It also includes breakfast for two in the hotel restaurant and a pair of passes to the VIP dining area at the park. You'll also receive a baseball-themed welcome amenity. Fair warning, though: You're on your own for actual game day tickets and the package is only valid until August 31. Information: the GAME DAY GETAWAY page.
PARIS: When It Doesn't Sizzle, Hotel Chains Up the Discounts
Paris has yet to shake off the negative publicity surrounding the recent terrorist attacks and that has led two major U.S. hotel chains to lower their rates. Hyatt Hotels in Paris now offers 20 percent off two-night stays and 30 percent off stays of three nights or more. The deal is available until September 11, but reservations are nonrefundable and cannot be cancelled. Meanwhile, Marriott properties in Paris offer bargains on stays of three nights or more. The discount is 25 percent off four-star properties and 20 percent off five-star hotels. Valid through September 11, the deal includes breakfast for two, no small benefit in Paris, where in-hotel meal prices are astronomically high. Prepayment is due at the time of booking.
RED ROOF INN: Stay Three Times This Summer, Get a Free Night
If you're a fan of Red Roof Inns, one of the few remaining independent chains, you'll be interested in the current 3-for-1 promotion. Three stays before August 31 will earn you 6,000 RediCard points bonus, enough for a free stay. Advance registration is required and you must be a RediCard member, too. Information: the STAY 3 page.
STARWOOD HOTELS: 40 Percent Off (the Second Night) at 'Select Service' Brands
Starwood wants you to know it'll knock 40 percent off the price of a hotel room at its "select service" brands such as Aloft, Element and Four Points. The hitch? The big discount is available only on the second night of a stay. In other words, we're actually talking about a 20 percent discount each night of a two-night stay. That's not bad, of course, but do check to make sure there aren't better rates available when you book. The deal is valid on stays through September 5 when you pay with an American Express card. There are also some daunting restrictions. Information: the 40% OFF page.
BEST WESTERN: Stay Twice in the Summer, Get $50 Off an Autumn Stay
Like far too many hotel chains, Best Western has fallen into a same-old-same-old promotional trap. So if this sounds familiar, you're not crazy. Still, the offer--$50 bucks off a stay--is better than a stick in your eye. To get the kickback, you must stay twice at a Best Western branded property between May 23 and August 28. You'll then get a $50 gift card that can be used against a future stay before November 15. Only one gift card can be earned during the promotion and advance registration is required. Information: the WELCOME TO TODAY'S BEST WESTERN page.
INTERCONTINENTAL HOTELS: A 30,000-Point Bonus for Stays in Asia and Africa
InterContinental Hotels doesn't offer much except points in its IHG Reward Clubs program, so, if you're playing, you're always trolling for more points. Pay attention to InterContinental's new Book Direct promotion. You receive 1,000 points for registering, 5,000 points for the first stay, 9,000 points for the second stay and 15,000 points for the third stay. That's a total of 30,000 points. There are some huge caveats, however. For starters, you can only collect the points at IHC hotels in the Middle East, Africa and the Asia/Pacific Region, although lodgings in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan are excluded. You must register and complete stays by August 31. And besides having to book direct with IHG (hence the purpose of the promo), you must reserve seven days in advance. If you're capable of hitting all those marks, cash in. Information: BOOK DIRECT page.
HOTELS: Here are Your Spring/Summer Hotel Promotions
Hotel chains are all over the map now when it comes to points promotions. Here's the snapshot.
Club Carlson is offering a stair-step promotion valid for stays through July 31. Two nights of stays at Radisson, Country Inn and Park hotels will yield 5,000 bonus Gold Points. Complete five nights of stays and you'll receive 10,000 more. Get to ten nights and it'll be another 10,000 points. If you reach 15 nights, you'll receive an additional 25,000 points for a total of 50,000 Gold Points. Advance registration is required.
Hilton HHonors is offering a straightforward double points promotion through the heart of the spring and summer. You'll earn double base points on every stay anywhere in the world between May 1 and August 31. You can receive credit for as many as two rooms per stay and an unlimited number of points during the promotion period. Advance registration is required.
Starwood Preferred Guest is offering a so-called Triple Up promotion available between May 9 and July 31. You'll receive triple points for stays at Sheraton Hotels. Stays at other brands earn double points. Third prong: a 1,000-point-per-stay bonus for weekend stays. But the three-way is not quite as rich as it sounds because only stays of at least two nights qualify for the bonuses. And not every Starwood property participates. Registration opens on May 3.
GLOBAL AIRLINE DEALS TO CONSIDER
AIRLINES: Deep Discounts to Asia--If You Want to Fly Coach
'Tis the season to think about Europe travel for most Americans, but the gigantic discounts now seem to be to Asia. And while business and first class seats still seem out of reach, there are plenty of deep discounts in coach. I've detailed some of the best prices below. Travel windows and purchase requirements vary, so check the restrictions for each fare carefully.
CATHAY PACIFIC has nonstops from New York or Chicago to Hong Kong for $764 roundtrip.
DELTA AIR LINES is selling Seattle-Shanghai flights for $663 roundtrip, Seattle-Hong Kong for $885 and Los Angeles-Shanghai for $931.
EVA AIR is selling nonstops from Houston to Taipei for $685 roundtrip and nonstops from New York to Taipei for $755 roundtrip.
HAINAN AIRLINES is selling nonstops from San Jose to Beijing for $538 roundtrip, nonstops from Los Angeles to Changsha for $558 and Boston to Beijing or Shanghai for $658. Nonstops from Seattle to Beijing are $718.
SINGAPORE AIRLINES has nonstops from San Francisco to Seoul for $678 roundtrip and nonstops from Los Angeles to Tokyo for $582 roundtrip. From New York, a one-stop to Singapore (via Frankfurt) is a low as $799 roundtrip.
LA COMPAGNIE: Surprisingly Cheap Summer Business Class Prices to London and Paris
La Compagnie, the Paris-based all-business class carrier, is approaching its second 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 right now: $1,800 roundtrip to Paris and $1,600 to London. That's lower than last summer. But wait, there's more (as they never say in London or Paris). LaCompagnie is reviving its twofer pricing. If you buy tickets for two to London, the price is just $2,790 for the pair. If you buy two to Paris, the price is $2,990 for the pair. The fares are valid on select flights through the summer if you book by July 31. Information: the DEALS AND SPECIAL OFFERS page.
AIR NEW ZEALAND: Okay, Baby, How About $2,000 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 has regularly promoted exceptionally cheap business class fares to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands 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. It disappeared for a while, but now it's back at $1,995 roundtrip if you travel on select dates from July through November. 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 July 11. You even earn frequent flyer miles. Information: the Air New Zealand SPECIAL OFFER page.
ONEWORLD: Big (But Smaller) Miles/Points Bonuses for Higher-Priced Flights to Europe
The Oneworld Alliance is trying to goose spring and summer travel to Europe and its weapon of choice is a bushel of bonus frequent flyer credits. But the big credits are fewer than a similar promotion last year at this time. At American Airlines, the offer is as many as 50,000 AAdvantage miles when you fly before July 31. Bonuses start at 2,000 miles for roundtrip coach flights and include 15,000 miles for a roundtrip in premium economy or some full-fare coach fares and tops out at 50,000 miles for two roundtrips in first or business class. At British Airways, Iberia and OpenSkies, the offer is for as many as 50,000 Avios points. At Finnair, the 50,000 points are in the Finnair Plus program. The rules are exactly the same and advance registration is required in each promotion.
TAP AIR PORTUGAL: Join Us and We'll Give You Miles, Just Like the Old Days
TAP Air Portugal is edging back into the transatlantic market and returning to key cities on the East Coast. So it is absolutely no surprise that it would like to get attention for its frequent flyer program. What is a surprise? The revitalized Victoria Programme is offering bonuses to join, something that disappeared years ago from U.S. frequency plans. You'll receive a 1,000-mile sign-up bonus and an additional 2,000-mile bonus if you take a TAP flight in the first three months. Why join Victoria even if you don't expect to fly TAP much? The program offers awards on Star Alliance carriers, including United, Lufthansa and SAS. The introductory bonuses are available until September 30. Information: the VICTORIA page.
ALASKA AIRLINES: Double Miles For Flying BA Between Seattle and London
One of the strengths of the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, besides its decision to stick with miles-based earnings, is its spread of international partners. The latest promotion: double miles for flying British Airways between Alaska Air's Seattle-Tacoma hub and London. The miles bonanza is available until September 30 when you register in advance. Information: the EARN DOUBLE MILES page.
FINNAIR: Please, Somebody, Fly Us to Russia This Summer and Fall
For decades, Finnair has been the go-to carrier between the United States and Russia--and the Soviet Union before that. Its comfortable, compact hub at Helsinki has been a perfect place to change planes and reach a variety of Russian destinations. But what happens when no one is flying between the United States and Russia? Traffic now is almost as bad as during the bad old days of the Cold War. So faced with a nasty political impasse and a plummeting ruble, Finnair is doing the only thing it can do: slash prices to the bone. It's selling flights for as little as $570 roundtrip to Yekaterinburg, $585 to St. Petersburg and $590 to Moscow. Travel on Sunday through Thursday from August 16 to December 14. A seven-day minimum stay is required. Information: the OFFERS page.
KLM: Sure, Africa Is a Long Haul in Coach, But These Prices Are Insane
Deals to Africa are hard to come by. But along comes KLM with simply insane pricing albeit in coach. How about San Francisco to Cairo for as little as $807 roundtrip? Or New York to Algiers for $745 roundtrip? Or Los Angeles to Nairobi for $828 roundtrip? Or even Boston to Johannesburg for as little as $807 roundtrip. The prices aren't come-ons, either. KLM has a handy-dandy bar graph showing you when the fares are available between now and September and there seems to be substantial availability. Almost all of the itineraries include a stop in Amsterdam, but that shouldn't surprise you. Restrictions are minimal, too, requiring only a 7-day and Sunday-night stay. Even more interesting? This is a repeat of a fare sale run earlier this year and most prices are lower than they were several months ago. Information: the EXPLORE AFRICA TODAY page.
BRITISH AIRWAYS: Let's Do That AARP $400 Discount Deal for Another Year
The still-inexplicable British Airways sale late in October was sweetened by the fact that you could stack the AARP discounts atop the already ridiculously low fares. The AARP deal was slated to end on October 31, but much to the surprise of some observers, it's been extended for another year. That means you can score $400 off a first or business class fare, $130 off a premium economy price and $65 off in coach. Those discounts are for roundtrip prices, of course. No one-ways or open jaws need apply. But the discounts also apply to BA's code-shares with American, Iberia, OpenSkies and Finnair. Naturally, you must be an AARP member (go ahead, spring for the $12 annual fee) and you do have to book through the approved AARP portal. As we learned during the October bonanza, however, all of BA's fares are there. Information: the TRIP OF A LIFETIME page.
GROUND TRANSPORT DEALS WORTH YOUR TIME
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 July 31. If this promotion sounds familiar, Avis and American have been announcing and extending it for more than a year. Information: the Avis DRIVE FOR MILES page.
UNITED/HERTZ: Really Awful Suppliers, Really Big Bonuses
I can't think of two suppliers doing poorer jobs right now than United Airlines and Hertz. But they are marketing partners these days--in fact, a failed former United C-suite executive runs Hertz--and they seem desperate for your custom. The solution: gigantic bonuses for even one-day rentals. Until July 31, book a mid-size or larger Hertz car at United.com and you'll receive a 1,500-mile bonus atop the 500-1,250 miles you'd normally earn as a member of MileagePlus. So that means 2,000 to 2,750 miles for rentals as short as a single day. Does this sound familiar? It should. It's a re-introduction and extension of a promotion that the two companies have continually offered since October. Information: the EARN AWARD MILES page.
STAR ALLIANCE: Free Heathrow Express Upgrades for Gold Members
The Star Alliance isn't exceptionally strong in London, the hub for Oneworld Alliance partner British Airways. Which may be why it is offering upgrades to London-bound Star Alliance Gold members. But curb your enthusiasm. The upgrade isn't for London flights, but for trips on the Heathrow Express train that connects the airport with London Paddington station. To score the upgrade, present your full-fare coach Heathrow Express ticket and Star Alliance Gold credentials as you board the train. The promotion starts February 15. A reminder: You're Star Alliance Gold if you hold United MileagePlus Gold or higher status or Air Canada Altitude 50K status or higher. Information: the STAR ALLIANCE OFFERS page.
NOTABLE CREDIT CARD ACQUISITION BONUSES
CHASE: 60,000 Points for Ink, a Great Companion to Sapphire Preferred
If you're collecting Chase Ultimate Rewards Points--and you should since they are so flexible--the Sapphire Preferred Card is the one to have for travel and dining charges. (See below.) But you should also have an Ink Plus Card, too. It'll give you five points per dollar spent on office supplies, mobile phone charges, Internet and cable fees. It'll also get you double points at gasoline stations. And now you'll score an acquisition bonus of 60,000 points when you charge $5,000 in the first 90 days. Information: the INK FROM CHASE page.
CHASE: 50,000-Point Bonus to Take a Card You Must Have in Your Wallet
Let's make this simple: Why the hell don't you already have a Chase Sapphire Preferred card? It offers two points per dollar spent on dining and all travel, including esoteric stuff like parking and commuter-train tickets. You get a 5,000-point bonus for adding an authorized user. There are no foreign-exchange charges and the $95 annual fee is waived in the first year. Plus the card is the gateway to Chase Ultimate Rewards, a program whose points transfer effortlessly on a 1:1 basis to the United, Southwest, Marriott, Hyatt and InterContinental frequency plans. If you don't have the card, now's the time because you'll also get a 50,000-point bonus when you charge $4,000 in the first three months. Information: the NEW CUSTOMERS page.
BARCLAYCARD: The New Premium JetBlue Card Has the Best Bonus and Package
JetBlue Airways has dumped American Express as its credit card partner and moved to Barclaycard. The best of the new cards is the Barclay JetBlue Plus. It has a modest ($99) annual fee and a good acquisition bonus: 30,000 TrueBlue points when you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days. Ongoing card benefits include six points per dollar spent with JetBlue and two points per dollar spent at restaurants and grocery stores. You'll also get your first checked bag free and a 5,000-point bonus each year you hold the card. Information: the FLY FASTER page.
This column is Copyright © 2016 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2016 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.