Steals&Deals for Sept. 28-Oct. 12, 2017
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SKYTEAM: Business Class Sale for the Holidays, Just Don't Call It a Holiday Sale
The salad days of business class sales to Europe for Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year are long gone. In fact, even when you find decent prices, the airlines seem intent on not characterizing the fares as holiday-oriented promotions. Example: the end-of-year prices offered by Delta Air Lines and its SkyTeam partner KLM. Fares include $2,219 roundtrip for Boston-Dublin; $2,399 for Atlanta-Zurich; $2,489 for Washington/Dulles-Amsterdam; $3,145 for San Francisco-Athens; and $3,283 for Los Angeles-Rome. Seven-day minimum stays are required and tickets must be purchased by October 3. The lowest fares will be available Monday-Thursday. The travel window is November 23 to January 23. That eliminates pre-Thanksgiving travel, of course, but offers two weeks additional flexibility in Europe after the New Year.
THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE DISCOUNTS
ASIA: Startlingly Low Coach Fares Around the Continent
Given Americans' affinity for Europe and the raft of start-up airlines plying the Atlantic at low prices, travel to Asia has gotten comparatively short shrift. But coach fares to Asia are plummeting, too. Here is just some of what I've found this week:
DELTA AIR LINES is selling flights from its Seattle/Tacoma hub to Hong Kong for $701 roundtrip. Flights between LAX and Shanghai are going for as little as $761. Restrictions vary by route, but tickets must be booked by October 4.
EVA AIRLINES is promoting flights over its Taipei hub to destinations in Southeast Asia. From Chicago, it's $675 roundtrip to Saigon, $680 to Hanoi, $695 to Bangkok, $770 roundtrip to Singapore and $730 to Cebu. From Seattle, it $662 to Manila and $991 to Okinawa. Purchase dates and travel windows vary, but are generally available for purchase by mid-October for travel into late February.
HAINAN AIRLINES is launching flights to Chengdu and Chongqing, China, and offering eye-popping introductory fares: $468 roundtrip. Travel is permitted until mid-February when you purchase by October 20.
SINGAPORE AIRLINES is flying nonstop to Singapore again--this time from San Francisco--and that opens up one-stop flights from its Changi hub. Fares start as low as $735 roundtrip from San Francisco to destinations in Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam. Restrictions and travel dates vary by route, but generally speaking you can book by the end of the year for travel until the end of March.
UNITED AIRLINES is selling seats on its Asia network for as little as $549 roundtrip (Denver-Beijing), $555 (San Francisco-Beijing), $597 (Los Angeles-Shanghai), $667 (Chicago-Hong Kong) and $747 roundtrip (San Francisco-Seoul). Restrictions and travel dates vary by route.
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 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 December 31, 2018, when you book by January 31. That's eight more months of travel time and an extra month to purchase seats than an earlier promotion. Information: the EXCLUSIVE AARP MEMBERS page.
CATHAY PACIFIC: Up to 40,000-Mile Bonus Per Roundtrip to Hong Kong
If you're collecting Asia Miles, the currency of Cathay Pacific and several other operations, here's a huge bonus opportunity. Cathay is offering as much as 40,000 bonus miles per roundtrip to Hong Kong. If you fly first class (fare codes F or A), you'll receive the 40,000 miles. The roundtrip business class bonus is 30,000 miles when you fly in classes J, C, D, or I. Premium Economy roundtrips (in W, R or E) earn 20,000. Most coach fares will earn 10,000 miles roundtrip. The bonus is valid for U.S. residents flying from Cathay's gateways (Boston, Newark, Kennedy, Chicago, San Francisco or Los Angeles) on flights before December 31. You must register in advance by November 1 to qualify. Information: the Asia Miles AIRLINE 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 base 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 ECBC luggage purchases and free shipping except for 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
MARRIOTT/STARWOOD: Some Soup for You During End-of-Year Promotions
Marriott and its vassal Starwood want your end-of-the-year business, but they realize they don't have as much competition as they used to have, so no soup for you. Well, some soup for you. The Starwood division's Explore More offer is a points-based promotion. You'll receive 500 bonus SPG points per stay at Aloft, Element or Four Points properties between September 12 and January 15. The Starwood full-service brands are offering a 1,000-point per stay bonus during the same time period. There are some properties that aren't playing, so see the promo page links for the opt-out locations. The other inducement? A one-time 10,000-point bonus if you complete 25 nights during the promotional period. Meanwhile, Marriott is falling back on its familiar MegaBonus promo. Complete two stays at any of the properties in the Marriott stable between September 12 and January 15 and you'll earn a free night in a Category 1-5 hotel. As usual, you can only earn one freebie during the promotion, so maybe do the two Marriott stays first and then concentrate on the SPG points deal. Both promotions require advance registration by November 30.
GLOBAL AIRLINE DEALS TO CONSIDER
AIR NEW ZEALAND: Premium Economy Fares to New Zealand Next Year Cheaper Than Last Year
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--notably cheaper than last year--to go with the service. From Los Angeles or San Francisco, for example, it's $1,736 roundtrip to Auckland. From ANZ's Houston/Intercontinental gateway, it's $1,936 roundtrip. There are similarly good deals to six other New Zealand cities. Flights are available from February through most of June if you purchase tickets by October 2. (There are also some seats available on select days in November if you're traveling from Los Angeles or San Francisco.) Best of all: no minimum stay and only a two-day advance purchase. Cheapest fares are available Monday-Thursday for the transpacific section. Information: the PREMIUM ECONOMY FLIGHTS page.
AIR FRANCE: Off-Season First Class Sale From an Airline That Still Dotes on First Class
Except for a few select routes, international first class is dying a slow death. And not all carriers offering a first class are going all out to substantially differentiate it. Air France, however, has revitalized its first by slashing capacity and upgrading seating and perks. First class flyers on Air France also get on-the-ground benefits such as free gifts and inside access to some of Paris' top chefs. Best of all, Air France is actively discounting at the pointy end, too. The most notable fare: $7,182 roundtrip to Paris/CDG from San Francisco, the same fare as from New York/JFK. Also a bargain: $6,160 roundtrip from Washington/Dulles. Restrictions aren't simple--a 7-day minimum stay and 90-day advance purchase--but, still, these prices are actually cheaper than walk-up business class fares. Travel is permitted from December 14 to April 30. Information: the EXCLUSIVE OFFERS page.
LA COMPAGNIE: $1,500 Roundtrip to Paris? 'Mais Oui, Bien Sūr'
Once upon a time, when the fare world wasn't turned upside down, a $1,500 roundtrip fare to Paris would be an astonishing development. But, you know, there are crazy discounts out there and La Compagnie reliably cuts its promotional fare around this time. You remember La Compagnie, the boutique all-business-class airline that flies between Newark and Paris/CDG? It once again is selling $1,500 roundtrips for select dates until March 25 if you book by October 1. The airline flies Boeing 757s configured with 74 seats that convert into angled-flat beds. Information: the La Compagnie BACK TO BUSINESS page.
FINNAIR: Russia Cheap in Business Class
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 en route to Russia. See where I'm going with this? Finnair is offering great deals in business class over its Helsinki hub to Russia. Prices are valid for travel until well into next summer if you can hit the admittedly stiff (60-day) advance-purchase restriction. Sample fares: Yekaterinburg for $2,275 roundtrip; Moscow for $2,290; and St. Petersburg for $2,295. Oddly, if you're actually headed to Helsinki, the nonstop roundtrip price is $2,685. Information: the Finnair FLIGHT OFFERS page.
GROUND TRANSPORT DEALS WORTH YOUR TIME
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 29. You will find some holiday blackouts, but, otherwise, it's open season for cheap cars. Information: the Enterprise $9.99 WEEKEND SPECIAL page.
AVIS/BUDGET/AMERICAN AADVANTAGE: Rent Three Days, Earn 2,500 or 5,000 Bonus 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 car rentals were earnings deserts. Lately, however, the airlines and rental firms have been working out relatively exclusive deals. The latest example? Avis/Budget will give you as many as 5,000 American AAdvantage miles for a three-day rental. Cars earn 2,500 points and specialty vehicles earn 5,000 miles. The deal is valid for rentals that begin by October 15. Information: the CAR PROMOTIONAL OFFERS page.
NATIONAL CAR RENTAL: The Best Car-Rental Bonus Ever Is Back Again
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 February 28 earn a free rental day that you can use by June 15. 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, the Caribbean or Europe. You'll also receive 300 bonus points for every renter you refer to the Emerald Club. Using National's app for reservations gets you 75 bonus points per rental. This year's most interesting perk: extra points for the third rental. Also notable: If you participated in last year's 12Free promo, any unclaimed points roll over to this year's program. Advance registration and Emerald Club membership are required, of course. Information: the ONETWOFREE 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 exec was recently 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 November 30, 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.
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.
PACKAGE DEALS TO CONSIDER
OXFORD: So You Never Got to Be a Rhodes Scholar ...
So you never got to be a Rhodes Scholar? Fear not because there is always The Oxford Experience, the extraordinarily popular summer session at Oxford University that offers dozens of week-long courses to travelers of all ages, social classes, intelligence levels and interests. One-week packages include the tuition and lectures; lodging in Christ Church College dorms (with private bath); and three meals daily. There are dozens of courses from which to choose, ranging across traditional disciplines to modern topics such as horror novels. Courses are held in the morning, which leaves your afternoons free for touring and optional excursions and evenings for additional learning--or just goofing off like a college kid again. At the end of the week, you even get a farewell dinner and something like a diploma. All-inclusive prices start at about $2,000 a person. The weekly sessions take place from July 1 to August 11. Among the 2018 offerings: Delve into 200 years of British murder mysteries or 500 years of English gardens. You can learn about the post-Victorian British monarchy, which, surprisingly, is only four kings and the current Queen. Or you could do week-long dives into Rachmaninoff, the Beatles or Shakespeare. Chaucer, Tolkien and Victorian detective novels have courses, too. Plus physics, politics and even broadcasting. There's even a course on modern terrorism and one on the state of the European Union. Online registration continues until April 1, but many popular courses sell out quickly. Information: The OXFORD EXPERIENCE page.
TAP AIR PORTUGAL: The Free Portugal Stopover Can Now Be Five Days Long
In the early days of transatlantic jet travel, free "stopovers" in the country of arrival were a standard perk. Now the practice has virtually disappeared and airlines will charge you separately if you don't make your onward connection within hours of your transatlantic arrival. But TAP Air Portugal, now revitalized under the leadership of a consortium fronted by JetBlue Airways founder David Neeleman, has brought the perk back. Last year it revived a free, three-day stopover in Portugal as part of roundtrip, transatlantic nonstops to Lisbon and Porto. Beginning with travel in September, however, stopover privileges will be extended to five days. There are also other perks attached to the stopover, including hotel discounts, free museum and attraction admissions and free wine with meals. TAP and its partners have even created a "stopover app" to help guide you around the country via smartphone. Information: The PORTUGAL STOPOVER page.
CREDIT CARD BONUS OPPORTUNITIES
SOUTHWEST/CHASE: 60,000-Point Acquisition Bonuses That Count Toward the Companion Pass
If you're looking at your Southwest Airlines flying this year and coming up short on the 110,000 points you need for a Companion Pass, here's a fast boost: a 60,000-point acquisition bonus if you take one of Chase's Southwest Airlines credit cards. (Yes, credit card acquisition bonuses are one of the few non-flying, non-spending activities that count toward the Companion Pass.) Chase's $99-a-year Premier Card has no foreign transactions fees, awards an annual 6,000-point bonus and you earn 1,500 Tier points for every $10,000 spent. The $69-a-year Plus Card has a 3,000-point annual bonus, but no tier points and it does not waive foreign transaction fees. Warning: You can't get the acquisition bonus if you've had the card in the previous two years and Chase will deny your application if you've opened more than five credit cards from any bank in the last 24 months.
AMERICAN/BARCLAYCARD: A 60,000-Mile Acquisition Bonus for Only $95
This one is a no-brainer, folks. Since Citibank and Barclay are both contractually allowed to issue American Airlines AAdvantage cards, the competition is rather fierce. As the smaller rival--at least in the United States--Barclay is also the most aggressive. Hence a new 60,000-mile acquisition bonus to take its awkwardly named Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard. Even better, there is no minimum spend. Once you pay the $95 annual fee and make a purchase, you get the 60,000 miles. Sweet, even for the devalued American AAdvantage card. Among the card's benefits: free first checked bag on American flights, double points on American purchases, preferred boarding position and no foreign transaction fees. (Side note: I've noticed that Alibaba will accept Barclay-issued cards for purchases while rejecting American Express and Chase cards.) Information: the AADVANTAGE AVIATOR page.
CATHAY PACIFIC: 50,000-Mile Acquisition Bonus for a Visa Card
Cathay Pacific has just rung up its worst first-half financial performance in about 20 years. The problem? High costs and not enough travelers interested in paying high fares for its high-quality product. How Cathay will solve its problem long term is anyone's guess--Cathay itself might not know--but, in the interim, there's this: a 50,000-mile bonus if you take the Cathay Pacific Visa Signature card. The miles are Asia Miles, which has some good values, especially since you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points or Citi ThankYou points on a 1:1 basis. The card itself has some decent earnings accelerators: two miles per dollar on Cathay spend, 1.5 miles on dining and 1.5 miles on spending outside the United States. You'll also receive entry level elite status in Cathay's Marco Polo Club. The acquisition bonus requires $2,500 of spend on the card in the first 90 days. The annual fee is $95. The bonus is available until October 31. Information: the CATHAY PACIFIC VISA SIGNATURE page.
CITIBANK: 50,000 ThankYou Points for a Card With No First-Year Fee
Citibank, the financial institution that can't shoot straight, has done a typically terrible job promoting ThankYou points, its in-house loyalty plan. ThankYou offers terrific 1:1 points-transfer opportunities to Flying Blue (Air France/KLM), Eva Air, Etihad, Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific's Asia Miles. So when Citi offers a big acquisition bonus--50,000 points if you spend $4,000 in three months--attention should be paid. That's especially true when the bonus applies to the Citi ThankYou Premier, a card whose $95 annual fee is waived in the first year. The card also earns triple points for travel expenditures and gasoline and double points on dining, concerts, sporting events and movies. Information: the PREMIER CARD page.
CHASE: 80,000-Point Bonus to Take an Ink Business Card
As the airline frequent flyer programs get less generous, smart travelers are banking their miles with banks. Chase Ultimate Rewards points, for example, offer a 1:1 transfer to United, Southwest, several international airlines and some hotel chains, too. There seems to be less risk by banking points with Chase and moving them to your programs as the good deals--or award availability--warrant. One of the current stars in the wide Chase portfolio? The Ink Business Preferred Card. For the $95 annual fee, you'll receive an acquisition bonus of 80,000 points when you spend $5,000 during the first three months. You'll also earn three points per dollar spent on travel expenditures; shipping charges; payments for Internet, cable and phone services; and certain advertising purchases. Information: the 80,000 BONUS POINTS 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.