Steals & Deals for July 21-31, 2016
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XIAMEN AIR: $1,600 Roundtrip to Hong Kong. Well, Close to Hong Kong.
Xiamen Air is one of the longer-established mainland China carriers, but it's only now extending its flights to the United States. Starting on September 26, Xiamen will begin three weekly nonstops from Seattle-Tacoma to Shenzhen. The price in business class? Just $1,583 roundtrip until the end of the year. Yeah, seriously. That's also less than half the price Xiamen is charging on nonstops from Vancouver, just over the Canadian border. Better yet, Xiamen will be flying brand-new Boeing Dreamliner 787-9s on the run. The business class is configured 2x2x2, essentially duplicating United's configuration. While Shenzhen in Guangdong Province is an important destination in and of itself, it is also attractive because it is only two hours by train to Hong Kong. So whether you need to get to the heart of China's manufacturing might or need to hop over the border to Hong Kong, Xiamen Air may be a new option. Founded in 1984, Xiamen Air is also part of the SkyTeam Alliance. Information: the XIAMEN AIR Web site.
THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE BARGAINS
LOT POLISH: Incredibly Cheap Coach Fares to Europe This Fall
The U.S. carriers have signaled their intent to eliminate a good chunk of transatlantic capacity this fall. But even with the contracted supply, there seems to be a surplus of coach seats. How else to explain the extraordinary cheap fares offered by LOT Polish? Using its all-Dreamliner transatlantic fleet, its compact Warsaw hub and its New York/Kennedy and Chicago/O'Hare flights, LOT is offering some eye-opening prices. Fares are as low as $450 roundtrip (JFK-Stockholm) and include: $480 (New York-Amsterdam or Paris); $630 roundtrip (Chicago-Vienna); $640 (JFK-Cracow); and $750 (Chicago-Tel Aviv). Tickets must be purchased by July 26 and you may travel between October 1 and December 15. Information: the CRAZY EUROPE DEALS.
STARWOOD HOTELS: Big (If Nebulous) Discounts in Hawaii and French Polynesia
If you're interested in a South Seas holiday, Starwood has posted a convoluted, but possibly useful, sale for travel through mid-December. Fourteen properties in Hawaii and French Polynesia offer as much as 40 percent off rates. Starwood Preferred Guest members receive an additional 5 percent discount. As usual, however, the rates come with serious strings: full prepayment at the time of reservation, blackout dates and capacity controls. The sale dates are August 9 through December 20. Prices seem to start at $199 a night. As usual, though, it's smart to check the so-called sale prices against other prevailing rates with less onerous conditions. Guestrooms must be booked by August 19. Information: the PACK FOR PARADISE page.
DELTA SKYMILES: Award 'Sale' Prices Even Though There Are No 'Regular' Prices
Delta's ultimate diss of business travelers is the airline's supposed dissolution of award charts. We know that isn't true, of course. The airline simply hid them from view so it could play bait and switch with award prices. So what to make of Delta's claim that awards for 13,000 routes are "on sale"? How can you have a sale, after all, if there are no set prices as Delta claims? If you can get past that emotional and intellectual disrespect, some of the awards on offer include New York/Kennedy-Savannah for 7,500 miles one-way in coach and 11,500 miles in Comfort+ class; San Francisco, Oakland or Long Beach to Salt Lake City for 5,500/9,500 miles; and Atlanta to Chicago/Midway for 5,000/9,000 miles. Taxes and fees are extra, of course. Awards must be claimed by September 30 for travel between August 23 and February 10. A 21-day advance booking is required and there are plenty of blackout dates. Information: the AWARD TRAVEL DEALS page.
QANTAS: The Land Down Under Is Far Away, But It's Cheaper Now (in Coach or Premium Economy)
Australia is a long, long way away and Qantas has posted some excellent fares considering the distance. The coach rates are especially notable, but given the distance, you might want to opt for premium economy. If you're game, coach prices start at $929 roundtrip from Los Angeles to Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane. It's $999 roundtrip from San Francisco, $1,049 from Dallas/Fort Worth and $1,099 from New York/JFK. Premium economy fares run around $1,200 more roundtrip. There's a 7-day minimum stay and seven-day advance purchase required. Travel is permitted on select dates from August through May, but Thanksgiving and Christmas periods are off-limits. The lowest fares are available for travel Monday-Thursday. Tickets must be purchased by July 27. Information: the EXTEND YOUR SUMMER SALE.
KLM: Sure, Africa Is a Long Haul in Coach, But These Prices Are Insanely Low
Deals to Africa are hard to come by. But along comes KLM with simply insane pricing albeit in coach. How about Atlanta to Marrakech for as little as $713 roundtrip? Or New York to Casablanca for $673 roundtrip? Or Los Angeles to Nairobi for $865 roundtrip? Or even Washington to Johannesburg for as little as $745 roundtrip. The prices aren't come-ons, either. KLM has a handy-dandy bar graph showing you when the fares are available between August and February and there seems to be substantial availability. Almost all 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. 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.
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 $2,200 roundtrip to Auckland. From ANZ's newish Houston/Intercontinental gateway, it's $2,500 roundtrip to Auckland. Flights are available on various dates in November and late January through May 31 if you purchase tickets by August 8. 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
HYATT GOLD PASSPORT: 10 Percent Back on Award Redemptions This Summer and Fall
Hyatt Gold Passport is effectively lowering the prices of awards until October 31. The deal, claim any award by that date and you'll get 10 percent of your redeemed points deposited back into your Gold Passport account after the stay. You must register for the promotion by August 31. You can book either all-points or Points + Cash awards and get the 10 percent discount. One caveat: Your stay must be completed by October 31. One big restriction: You must also have a Hyatt Chase credit card to get the discount.
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.
HILTON HHONORS: Double the Devalued Points This Summer
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.
GLOBAL AIRLINE DEALS TO CONSIDER
JETBLUE: Let's Rewrite the Transcon Price Chart Again
JetBlue Airways is throwing down the gauntlet on transcontinental pricing. If you're flying on the nation's premier route--New York/Kennedy to Los Angeles--you'll find coach prices as low as $139 one-way until mid-December. There haven't been prices that low on that route in years. JFK-San Francisco flights are as low as $146 one-way until mid-December. You'll also find a bargain on flights between Boston and Los Angeles. Fares are as low as $131 one-way between September and mid-December. But, wait, there's even more. JetBlue is launching its widely lauded Mint service on its Fort Lauderdale-Los Angeles route on March 27. The better-than-business-class service offers terrific seat-beds, fabulous (for airlines) food, great in-flight entertainment, free WiFi and other very clever perks. But the big news is the introductory fare: Just $399 one-way between its Florida anchor city and the City of Angels. That price is even lower than the $499 rate JetBlue used to introduce Mint to the world in 2014. In other words, jump on it, folks.
VIRGIN AMERICA: A 50 Percent Points Bonus for the Rest of the Summer
Virgin America's Elevate program isn't long for this world--Alaska Airlines has agreed to buy the airline, after all--but Virgin is trying to fend off poachers (that would be JetBlue, see below) while it still exists. The inducement: 50 percent more Elevate points whenever you book and fly by August 31. Advance registration is required.
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.
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.
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.
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.