Steals & Deals for Early April, 2017
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MERIDIANA: $1,500 Roundtrips to Italy in Business? Nice Work If You Can Get It
I've lost track of how many airlines have been folded into Meridiana, which started life as Alisarda, a carrier launched by the Aga Khan to fly to Sardinia. Although almost unknown in the United States, Meridiana (often under the name EuroFly) has flown from New York to Rome, Naples, Milan and Sicily. Nonstop to Naples and Palermo, Sicily, I'll have you know. And fares to Naples or Palermo are eye-poppingly cheap this year--about $600 roundtrip in coach and $1,550 in the better-than-you'd expect business class. The trick to getting the fare on Meridiana's once- or twice-weekly nonstops? Making sense of the chaotic, quintessentially Italian Meridiana Web site. Flights in April, May and October are available at the lowest fares. Prices will be a bit higher in late spring and the summer.
THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE BARGAINS
MARRIOTT REWARDS: 100,000-Point Acquisition for the Chase Marriott Card
Acquisition bonuses do not get larger than this: 100,000 Marriott Rewards points if you take the personal version of the Chase Marriott card. You must spend $5,000 during the first three months you have the card, but that's not much of an impediment when you consider the payoff. You can score 7,500 more points when you add an authorized user. The annual fee is $85. Which means you're paying $85 for bonus points that can get you 13 nights at Marriott lowest-priced hotels or two award nights at its more expensive (Category 9) properties. Information: the 100,000 BONUS POINTS page.
GULF CARRIERS: Good Bargains, But There Is That Electronics Ban
For reasons known only to Homeland Security--and maybe the protectionist U.S. carriers--Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways have been included in the in-flight electronics ban. (Even the British haven't gone that far.) To compensate, Emirates is offering passengers special boxes to gate-check their electronics, Etihad is offering free in-flight WiFi and loaner iPads and Qatar Airways is offering loaner laptops. They are also responding with the kind of bargain fares that infuriate the U.S. airlines. From Emirates, for example, you can fly to Mumbai or Ahmedabad via Dubai from New York for as little as $3,929 roundtrip in business class. It's $4,829 roundtrip from Chicago to Johannesburg. (Purchase by April 3 for travel by February 12). From Etihad, it's $4,197 roundtrip in business class from Dallas/Fort Worth to Bangkok via Abu Dhabi. (Purchase by April 7 and travel by January 31.) The best bargains from Qatar Airways are in coach. Sample prices: $735 roundtrip from Philadelphia to Beijing via Doha and $790 from Atlanta to Nairobi. (Purchase by April 14 for travel until March 31.) Just remember to leave your electronics behind.
WORLD OF HYATT: A Cheapie Promotion From a Much-Devalued Program
If you need more proof that Hyatt has all but given up competing for the business of frequent travelers, consider the first promotion from World of Hyatt, the chain's newly introduced, much-devalued replacement for Gold Passport. Hyatt will begrudgingly give you double base points starting with your second stay between April 1 and June 30. If you're still going out of your way to find a Hyatt property, this promotion is better than a smack in the face. Not much better, but, still, a little better. Advance registration is required, of course. Information: the DOUBLE POINTS FOR BEING YOU page. (And, no, I don't know what the hell that means.)
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. Information: the Finnair OFFERS page.
ALASKA MILEAGE PLAN: When Was the Last Time You Saw an Enrollment Bonus?
Alaska Airlines is revving up the promotional activities now that it has actively begun the process of integrating Virgin America into the system. One of its tricks is a blast from frequent flyer programs past. Alaska will give you 5,000 bonus miles when you open a Mileage Plan account before April 30 and fly on Alaska or Virgin America before September 30. Information: the 5,000 REASONS TO JOIN 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
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.
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.
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
LACOMPAGNIE: Paris When It Sizzles--at a Legitimately Sizzling Fare
All-business-class La Compagnie only flies one route--Newark-Paris/CDG--but now it's got a rich uncle for an owner and flies twice daily. That's about 150 business class seats a day in each direction. To help move those seats--admittedly, not lie-flat, but quite comfortable nevertheless--LaCompagnie is selling 1,000 of them for a fabulous price: $1,300 roundtrip. You can fly as early as May 9 at the low fare. Information: the La Compagnie FRENCH SUMMER page.
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 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 April 19. You must include a Saturday-night stay. Information: the Aer Lingus FLYING BUSINESS 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.
GROUND TRANSPORT DEALS WORTH YOUR TIME
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.