Steals & Deals for March 9 to 23, 2017
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CATHAY PACIFIC: Comparatively Comfortable to Hong Kong at Decidedly Cheap Prices
Premium Economy class is quickly replacing business class as the airlines' promotional choice for fare sales. Witness Cathay Pacific, which has a fabulous premium economy cabin indeed. Is it as good as Cathay's award-winning business class or its superlative first class? Of course not. But the prices are extraordinarily modest for the comfort offered on these long-haul flights. It's $1,963 roundtrip nonstop to Hong Kong from New York, Boston or Chicago when you travel by May 23. It's $1,810 roundtrip from San Francisco or $1,830 roundtrip from Los Angeles. Most of those rates are actually lower than last year. Cancellation and change fees are quite modest ($100) and the 7-day advance-purchase requirement is modest, too. The lowest fares are for midweek. Information: the PREMIUM ECONOMY CLASS OFFER page.
THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE BARGAINS
AER LINGUS: Finally, Some Decent Summer Business Class Fares
Ever since Continental Airlines disappeared, the airline industry's appetite for dramatic summer business class sales has also disappeared. The Star Alliance, where Continental landed even before its merger with United, kept up the summer sales promotions for a few years. But, lately, it's been slim pickings up front. But this year, at least, Aer Lingus is riding in with some fine summer fares up front. And that makes sense since Aer Lingus has expanded dramatically in the United States and has expanded the size (and quality) of its business class cabin. And Dublin is an easy airport for connections to continental Europe and the United Kingdom. With all that as introduction, here are the fares: $1,999 roundtrip to Dublin or Shannon from New York/Kennedy, Newark and Boston; $2,399 from Toronto to Dublin; $2,599 from Chicago/O'Hare to Dublin; $3,199 from Washington/Dulles to Dublin; and $3,599 from Los Angeles to Dublin. Those fares are valid for midweek travel between June 1 and September 1 if you book by March 21. You must include a Saturday-night stay. This deal was added on March 10, 2017.
ALITALIA: You Want Business Class Deals? Sure, But the Restrictions Are Brutti
Alitalia is back on the financial brink, having burned another partner that thought it could turn the chronically messy carrier around. While it searches for a new survival strategy and a new partner or another government bailout, there are some deals to be had on its admittedly much-improved business class. But while prices are attractive, if not fabulous, the restrictions are ugly (that's brutti in Italian. First the prices: New York-Rome for $2,566 roundtrip; $3,063 from Miami or Chicago; $3,071 from Boston; and $3,563 from Los Angeles. Prices are valid Monday-Wednesday outbound and Monday-Thursday inbound when you include a Sunday stay and purchase by March 30. The heavy lift: a 50-day advance purchase, which eliminates most travel in the spring. Information: the Alitalia FLY TO ROME page.
OMNI HOTELS: $99-a-Night Rates This Spring, But Not Too Many Places
Omni Hotels is promoting a spring sale at its U.S. and Canada properties with nightly room rates as low as $99. And when you hear "as low as," you know your options are limited. In this case, it's Atlanta, Denver and some of Omni's Texas hotels. Other properties in the chain offer rates that start at $119 (Jacksonville and Charlotte) and range up from there. Oddly, however, there's also a sub-$99 option: It's as low as $85 a night at one of Omni's Houston properties. Although rates are valid through May 31, reservations must be booked by March 20. A one-night nonrefundable deposit is required. Information: the Omni SPRING SALE page.
CHOICE HOTELS: The Heavily Restricted Two-for-One Deal Is Back Again
Choice's lightly regarded Choice Privileges program is once again rolling out the heavily restricted two-earns-one promotion. For two separate stays before April 27, you'll receive enough points to claim a free night at about 1,500 of Choice's properties. There are lots of gimmicky rules and restrictions (not to mention advance registration), so make sure you read carefully before you commit. Information: the STAY TWO TIMES page.
NAPLES: If You've Heard of Elena Ferrante, You'll Get What This Is About
Elena Ferrante is the pseudonym of an Italian novelist who has written a smash-hit series of romance novels centered around Naples. So it won't surprise you that several tour operators have jumped on the Ferrante bandwagon and use her novels to craft Naples tours. One is fronted by Danielle Oteri, a recognized expert on all things Neapolitan. Her five-day Ferrante Fever package includes accommodations; all meals, guides and tours; museum admissions; ground transportation in Naples and the ferry to Ischia, an island where some of the action takes place. The tours also visit other Naples places associated with Lila and Lený, the women at the heart of the novels. The trips are scheduled for May 3-7 and September 24-28. The price is $2,100 a person based on double occupancy and $2,400 for singles. Information: the Feast on History FERRANTE FEVER page.
HOTEL POINTS AND PRICE PROMOTIONS
ACCOR HOTELS: Three Nights for the Price of Two for Two Months in the Spring
Accor, the gigantic global hotel chain based in Paris, is back with another promotion: 3 nights for the price of 2. Valid stay dates are March 18 to May 28 if you book by March 28. As always with these promotions, compare standard rates and special deals to the 3=2 rate. Why? Because there is never a guarantee that a promotion of this type will yield the lowest price. Information: the Accor 3=2 page.
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.
GLOBAL AIRLINE DEALS TO CONSIDER
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, 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. The cheapest option: Yekaterinburg for just $2,275 roundtrip. 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 March 15. Information: the Finnair FACES OF FINLAND page.
EVA AIR: Business Class From Houston to Asia Via Taipei at Low Fares
Eva Air, the Taipei-based carrier that is a member of the Star Alliance, recently launched flights to Houston's Intercontinental Airport, a major hub of Star anchor United Airlines. But Houston-Taipei isn't a route that's top of most flyers' minds, so EVA is promoting its business class with onward flights to Asia. That means flights from Houston to Hong Kong via Taipei for as low as $3,640 roundtrip and Houston-Taipei-Beijing flights as low as $3,612. There's also a premium economy offer: Houston-Taipei-Singapore for $1,576 roundtrip. Travel is permitted until May 20 if you book by March 31. Information: the SPECIAL OFFERS section of the EVA Air home page.
JETBLUE AIRWAYS: Are You Blue? Ain't Those Double Points in Your Plan Telling You?
JetBlue Airways continues to try to tailor its in-flight product and services to reach more business travelers. But its frequency plan, TrueBlue, remains weak. Still, here's a chance to bulk up your balance with a double-points promotion. If you register and then book your travel by March 23, flights through April 30 will earn double base points. Good news: The double points also will count toward Mosaic status, JetBlue's (generally speaking) elite level. Bad news: Any previously booked flights scheduled before registering will not earn double points. Information: the SPRING FORWARD page.
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 Nairobi for as little as $773 roundtrip? Or New York to Algiers for $661 roundtrip? Or Los Angeles to Nairobi for $844 roundtrip? Or even Washington to Johannesburg for as little as $827 roundtrip. There are some bargains to Morocco, too. Casablanca is just $813 roundtrip (from New York) and Marrakech is $835 (from Atlanta). The prices aren't come-ons, either. KLM has a handy-dandy bar graph showing you when the fares are available and there seems to be substantial availability. Almost all itineraries include a stop in Amsterdam, but that shouldn't surprise you. Restrictions are minimal, requiring only a 7-day and Sunday-night stay. Information: the EXPLORE AFRICA page.
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.
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.