Steals & Deals for Feb. 23-Mar. 9, 2017
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AIR FRANCE/KLM: A Kinda, Sorta Easter/Passover Business Class Sale
The deeply discounted "seasonal" business class sales to Europe--reliably for Easter/Passover, summer and the end-of-the-year holidays--have largely disappeared for reasons that aren't exactly clear. But here's an, um, Easter Egg: Air France and KLM have kinda, sorta revived the sale for April, which covers Easter (April 16) and Passover (April 10-18). Air France is flat-out calling its sale an Easter event, but KLM's promotion is more generic. Either way, the effect is the same. You can fly from the United States to Europe between April 4 and April 21 and return between April 16 and April 27. The minimum-stay is modest (three days) and the only major blackout is between Minneapolis and Amsterdam between April 16 and 27. What about the fares? For travel Sunday through Wednesday, here are some samples: New York-Frankfurt for $2,493 roundtrip; New York-Paris for $2,716; Seattle or Portland to Amsterdam for $3,142; and Atlanta-London for $3,080. If those prices aren't as eye-opening as in years past, they are still better than a sharp stick in the eye. The big catch: Tickets must be purchased by February 28.
THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE BARGAINS
GLOBAL HOTEL ALLIANCE: Book Fast and Save Big Around the World
U.S. travelers may not recognize the name Global Hotel Alliance (GHA), but it serves as the marketing arm for a collection of small but interesting lodging brands. That includes Omni, Kempinski, Marco Polo, Pan Pacific, Corinthia, Leela and many others. To overcome the recognition problem, the GHA chains have unleashed a fusillade of special deals. In brief, if you book before the end of the month, you can save up to 55 percent off the otherwise best available rates. You will have to be a member of the GHA loyalty program--or, at least, the Omni frequency plan, which makes most sense for U.S. travelers. Some samples: 30 percent off the Kempinski Corvinus in Budapest; 50 percent off the Marco Polo Shenzhen; 20 percent off the King Edward in Toronto; and 20 percent off the Omni Charlotte. Valid travel days vary by hotel, but extend well into the spring. Information: the EXCLUSIVE OFFERS page.
LUFTHANSA: Premium Seats Below $1,550 Roundtrip? Sure, But Don't Say Our Booking Fee Hurts Us
Lufthansa claims it isn't being seriously hurt by its offensive decision to make us pay a fee as part of its fight with the operators of the GDS booking computers. But a look at prices in its two-year-old premium economy class tells quite a different story. Its rates this winter and spring are even lower than the super-cheap fares it used to introduce the cabin. Some current sample fares: $1,549 roundtrip from New York to Milan; $1,849 from Boston to Berlin; $1,629 from Washington to Naples; $1,679 from Houston to Milan; $1,699 from Los Angeles to Nice and $2,019 from San Francisco to Budapest. You can travel Monday-Thursday until June 15 if you book by February 28, include a Saturday-night stay and book 14 days in advance. (Weekend flights carry a $30 one-way surcharge.) And don't forget that you'll pay that offensive fee if you book virtually anywhere but the Lufthansa Web site. Information: the Lufthansa ENJOY PREMIUM ECONOMY page.
LAST CALL FOR THESE TRAVEL DEALS
FINNAIR: Russia and Eastern Europe Cheap in Business Class All Year
Finland remains what it has always been: a middle ground between Europe and Russia. And Vantaa Airport in Helsinki remains what it always has been: a fabulous place to change planes. See where I'm going with this? Finnair is offering great deals in business class over its Helsinki hub to Russia and other European destinations. Best of all, the prices are valid for travel until the end of the year if you can book soon and hit the admittedly stiff (90-day) advance-purchase restriction. Sample prices: Moscow or St. Petersburg for $2,289 roundtrip; Tallinn or Vilnius in the Baltic States for $2,769; and Warsaw for $2,775. Oddly, if you're actually headed to Helsinki, the nonstop roundtrip price is $2,849. There is a 10-day minimum stay and tickets must be purchased by February 28. Information: the Finnair FLY AWAY TOGETHER page.
AMTRAK: Three Winter Trips in the East Mean a Summer Freebie
Let's just say government-owned and bureaucratically marketed Amtrak isn't at the pinnacle of promotional activity. Still, its annual version of BOGO (okay, buy three, get one) isn't too bad. If you take six Acela one-way trips (or three roundtrips) by February 28, Amtrak will buy you back a roundtrip (or two one-ways) between July 5 and August 31. It is offering the same buy three (or six), get one (or two) promotion for trips on the slower Northeast Regional runs. You must register for both offers, of course. There are some modest blackout dates on the freebies and minimum-spend rules for the winter purchases. Information: the 1-2-3-FREE page.
LA COMPAGNIE: Book Now for a $1,500 Roundtrip to Paris Through the Summer
Now in the hands of a big French tour operator, La Compagnie seems to be sticking to its twice-daily flights between Newark and Paris/CDG. The all-business class carrier also seems to be offering a cheap buy-in price for flights through August 31. The fare, as low as $1,500 roundtrip, must be purchased by February 28. Normally I'd worry about booking that far ahead on a small carrier with a single route and a shaky recent past, but the presence of the big tour operator may indicate a relatively stable future. Information: the SPECIAL MONTH page.
NATIONAL CAR RENTAL: The Best Car-Rental Bonus Ever Is Back Again--for Another Month
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. But now it's even better: the rental period has been extended until February 28. 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, Europe or the Caribbean. 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. There are also bonuses for weekend and weekday rentals of specified durations--and renting from local Enterprise locations. Advance registration and membership in the National Emerald Aisle program is required. Information: the ONETWOFREE page.
YOUR EXCLUSIVE MEMBERS-ONLY DISCOUNTS
The CircaTerra offer: Receive 15% off the price of all travel products and luggage, including sale prices.
How to claim the offer: Enter promo code JoeSentMe in the Gift Certificate or Coupon Code box on the order confirmation page when you shop at CircaTerra Travel.
The Cook Travel Offer: 10% off published fares on SkyTeam international business tickets. 5% off on Star Alliance international business or first class tickets. Upgrades on most airlines when available to business from full-fare international coach.
How to claim offer: Call 800-435-8776. Identify yourself as a JoeSentMe member.
The ECBC Offer: 30 percent off all purchases and free shipping except for Sparrow II carry-on bag and clearance items.
How to claim the offer: Enter the code JOESENTME in the promo code box on the checkout page when you shop at http://www.ec-bc.com.
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 GroundLink.com. Enter JOESENTME in the promo code box that will appear on the screen before you confirm your ride.
The Sheffield Spice & Tea Offer: Receive 15% off all purchases of spices, teas, rubs and accessories.
How to claim the offer: Surf to http://www.sheffieldspices.com and, when you reach the shopping cart page, enter joesentme2017 in the coupon code box.
HOTEL POINTS AND PRICE PROMOTIONS
BEST WESTERN: Not a Lot of Dough, But a Lot of Chances to Earn a Little Dough
Best Western Rewards has upped its game a little bit from last year with its spring promotion. Each stay before April 30 will earn you a $10 Best Western gift card. That's chump change, of course, but this time Best Western is allowing you to earn the bonus as many times as you stay during the promotional period. Advance registration is required. Information: the GO. GET. REWARDED. page.
HILTON HONORS: 1H Now, But a 2K Bonus a Day Until April 30
Hilton has changed the name of its frequency program. The double H is gone and you'll call it simply Hilton Honors from now on, if you please. If that news doesn't overwhelm you--and it shouldn't--at least you can look to this: a 2,000-point bonus each day you stay at a Hilton property until April 30. Even though Hilton Honors points aren't the most valuable in the hotel universe, you have to admire the straightforward approach of the offer, the inclusion of all Hilton properties around the world and the ability to rack up a fairly tidy cache of points. Advance registration is required, of course. Information: the 2K EVERY DAY page.
CLUB CARLSON: Essentially, 5,000 Bonus Points a Night--With Some Nasty Twists
Club Carlson, the loyalty program of Radisson, Park and Country Inn properties, has decided to unleash a big-number promotion: 100,000 points for 20 nights of stays by March 31. Essentially, that's 5,000 points for each night stayed. However, you need to commit to that 20 nights of stays or, apparently, you get nothing. Can't stay 20 nights? A one-night stay will get you 5,000 points and two nights earn 10,000. Four nights get you 20,000 bonus points and, if you go for eight nights, the bonus is 50,000 points. But, again, nasty twist. You can choose only one of those five offers when you register. So if you commit to two nights, for example, you're out of luck for more points if you stay more. Weird--and, of course, doesn't exactly make you want to stay additional nights. And isn't that supposed to be the point of these promotions? Information: the Club Carlson EARN BIGGER REWARDS page.
MARRIOTT/STARWOOD: One Big Happy Family, One Dull Winter Promotion, Two Familiar Names
Now that Marriott, Starwood and their amalgam of 30 brands are one big happy family, it's really no surprise that they are coordinating their points promotions. Starwood Preferred Guest retains its Double Take branding, but is offering double points on your first three stays between January 16 and April 15. Marriott Rewards retains its MegaBonus branding, but is offering double points on your first three stays between January 16 and April 15. See how that works? Different names, same deal. You must register separately for each promotion. And after the first three stays, you'll receive a mass-customized promotion for additional business you throw Marriott and Starwood's way. That is a twist Marriott has used for years on MegaBonus and now it applies to Starwood, too.
HOTELS: Small Chains With Big Bargains for the Slower Season
As the big get bigger in lodging, the smaller chains need to fight for attention to stay relevant during the slower winter months. The tool of choice? Price cuts, of course, often dressed up with holiday trimmings. Here are some of the deals we've seen:
Fairmont offers 10 to 30 percent off all properties. President's Club members also receive a room upgrade. Book by March 31 for travel through April 30. Information: the STAY LONGER. STAY MORE. page.
Sonesta offers 10 to 35 percent off at Sonesta hotels and 25 percent at Sonesta ES extended-stay properties. Travel must be booked by February 10 for travel by March 31. Use code 2017WS for U.S. properties and WINTER for hotels in St. Maarten. Information: WINTER SALE page.
GLOBAL AIRLINE DEALS TO CONSIDER
BRITISH AIRWAYS: Half a Loaf (Well, a Discount Loaf) Is Better Than Nothing
The long-standing discount deal between British Airways and the AARP is finally dead. Too bad, too, since it gave a $400 discount on business or first class seats atop any other fare or price promotion you could find. Still, all is not loss. BA's new deal for AARP members, while half a loaf, is still worth having. When you enter via the AARP portal, you'll receive $65 off coach, $130 off premium economy and $200 off business or first class seats. It requires a roundtrip purchase, of course. Discounts are available for travel through March 31, 2018, when you book by December 31. Information: the EXCLUSIVE AARP MEMBERS page.
DELTA SKYMILES: A Rich and Game-Changing Partnership With Airbnb
Business travelers are the last serious bastion of the traditional hotel/motel/resort nexus. While they aren't averse to using Airbnb on longer leisure trips, business trips are the sweet spot for hotel status and points earnings. But Delta SkyMiles may be challenging your assumptions. Its newish partnership with Airbnb has just taken a rather rich turn. Delta is offering three SkyMiles for every dollar you spend on an Airbnb accommodation. Plus you'll receive a $25 discount and a 2,000-mile bonus for your first use of Airbnb. You'll even earn as many as 25,000 bonus SkyMiles if you become an Airbnb host. The deal is valid through April 30, 2018, when you complete your bookings by April 30. Information: the LIMITED-TIME OFFER page.
HAINAN AIRLINES: China Very, Very Cheap--But in Coach
Privately owned Chinese carrier Hainan Airlines has been expanding rapidly in the United States and it also has an excellent reputation for service. Even better, it's offering astoundingly inexpensive fares in coach (and some business class) if you can travel during the first few months of the year. It's just $474 roundtrip from Chicago to Beijing and $552 from Los Angeles to Changsha. From Las Vegas, it's $636 roundtrip to Beijing and it's $533 from Seattle to Shanghai. Travel is permitted until the spring. The only major restriction: a three-day minimum stay. Information: the Hainan OFFERS page.
AIR FRANCE: Might as Well Try Premium Economy Before Delta Co-Opts it
Delta Air Lines has announced that it will launch a genuine international premium economy cabin next year and the betting is that its product will look a lot like the one already on offer from SkyTeam partner Air France. It's one of the best in class. Right now, Air France is offering some extraordinary values on the service, especially from the West Coast. It's just $1,406 roundtrip from Los Angeles to Paris and only $1,444 from San Francisco. From Washington/Dulles, it's just $1,284 roundtrip. From New York, it's $1,260 roundtrip. There are also excellent deals over Paris to other destinations in Europe, too. The advance purchase rules are a bit stiff, however: 14 to 28 days. Travel is permitted until April 6 or again between October 29 and December 14. Information: the PREMIUM ECONOMY page.
CATHAY PACIFIC: Up to 45 Percent Off Business Class to Hong Kong and Beyond
While coach fares have plunged across both oceans, business class bargains have been surprisingly hard to come by. The reason? Business class traffic has held up pretty well at or near regular price. That's what makes this Cathay Pacific sale so welcome. For travel until the end of April, the Hong Kong-based carrier is knocking as much as 45 percent off its business class fares. The best deal (Los Angeles-Hong Kong) is pegged at $3,397 roundtrip, which hits that 45 percent mark. It's $4,575 roundtrip from San Francisco, so maybe you want to think about grabbing a flight down the California Corridor for the better LAX deal. From New York, where Cathay has just switched to Terminal 8 at Kennedy Airport, it's $4,588 roundtrip, which represents 40 percent off the usual price. Also in the mix, but not as attractive is Chicago ($4,591 roundtrip, 35 percent off) and Boston, with a less compelling 20 percent discount ($6,099 roundtrip). There are also substantial discounts for onward travel to 18 destinations around Asia, including Greater China, Singapore, Thailand and India. Samples: $3,397 roundtrip from Los Angeles to Saigon and $4,588 from New York to Beijing or Guangzhou. Tickets must be purchased by March 31 for travel by April 30. Information: the BUSINESS CLASS SALE page.
ONEWORLD ALLIANCE: Lots of Bonus Miles--and Lots of Nasty Rules--for Winter Flights to Europe
Four Oneworld Alliance carriers--American, British Airways, Finnair and Iberia--are offering large mileage bonuses for winter travel. Select coach fares earn 5,000 bonus miles per roundtrip. It's 10,000 miles in business and 20,000 in first class per roundtrip. But there are lots of rules, too. The most annoying: You can only get the bonus if you register in advance using promo code NAS17 and book and fly before March 31. No ticket you've already purchased qualifies. Moreover, the flight must be marketed by American Airlines (that essentially means code-share). And you can only earn the bonus twice during the promotional period. One small benefit: Miles will post after each segment, so you can earn half the bonus for a one-way journey.
GROUND TRANSPORT DEALS WORTH YOUR TIME
AMTRAK: The Big Apple to the City of Saints for $90 Roundtrip on Weekends
Amtrak is only useful in the Northeast. And, occasionally into Canada. Now we have one of those moments. For the rest of the winter and into early spring, Amtrak is selling weekend roundtrips between New York City and Montreal for as low as $90. The fare is available for maximum five-day stays when using Train 69, The Adirondack, which requires about 11 hours to make the run between New York's Penn Station and Gare Centrale in Montreal. It makes about a dozen intermediate stops. Information: the $90 ROUND-TRIP WEEKEND page.
NATIONAL/SOUTHWEST: Quadruple Rapid Rewards Points for Weekly Rentals
Southwest Airlines and National Car Rental have teamed up to offer an intriguing payoff for rentals if you need a car. Instead of the standard 600 Rapid Rewards points, a two- or three-day National rental will earn 1,200 points. Rentals of 4-6 days will earn 1,800 points. Weekly or longer rentals will score 2,400 points. To score the points, use Contract ID code 5030510. The bonus points are valid on rentals until January 31, 2018, with a one-day advance reservation. Information: the RAPID REWARDS PROMOTIONS page.
UNITED/HERTZ: Really Awful Suppliers, Really Big Bonuses
What do Hertz and United Airlines have in common? Lessee, both operations run poorly. A former United executive was just ousted as Hertz chief executive. And United once actually owned Hertz. Other than that? Both are desperate for customers. The solution: gigantic bonuses for even one-day rentals. Until March 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 for more than a year. Information: the EARN AWARD MILES page.
AVIS/BUDGET/AADVANTAGE: Rent Three Days, Earn Up to 500 Miles
Mileage earning from car rentals has had a strange history. In the early days of the frequency programs, they were gushers of cheap miles. Then the car rental firms realized they were paying plenty to the airlines for miles without moving the market since all the companies were doing the same thing. So for decades rentals were earnings deserts. Lately, however, airlines and rental firms have been working out relatively exclusive deals. Latest example? Avis/Budget will give you as many as 500 American AAdvantage miles for a three-day rental. The deal is valid until April 30, after being scheduled to end on October 15. Information: the EARN MORE. SAVE MORE. 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 prices are valid at participating local stations until May 22. Information: the Enterprise WEEKEND SPECIAL page.
This column is Copyright © 2017 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2017 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.