Steals & Deals for December 7-21, 2017
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HAINAN AIRLINES: Extraordinary Business Class Fares to China's 'Secondary' Cities
Hainan Airlines, the flagship carrier of the sprawling, if opaque, HNA empire, has pioneered nonstop flights into China's heartland and its "secondary" cities. It takes a while to train Americans to travel beyond Beijing and Shanghai, so Hainan is responding with extraordinarily low fares on its well-regarded business class. From Los Angeles, it's just $2,188 roundtrip to Chengdu (capital of Sichuan Province); Changsha (capital of Hunan Province); or Chongqing, which has a metropolitan area of more than 30 million people. From New York, it's just $2,888 roundtrip to Chengdu or Chongqing. At those prices, you can fly just to eat Sichuanese or Hunanese cooking for days at a time. Tickets must be purchased by the end of the month. Depending on the route, travel is permitted until late February or late March. Information: the OFFERS page.
THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE DISCOUNTS
LA COMPAGNIE: $750 Business Class to Paris on New Year's Eve, Champagne and Caviar Included
Give La Compagnie, the all-business-class carrier that flies between Newark and Paris, full marks for creativity. Its flights to Paris/CDG on New Year's Eve are selling for just $750 one-way. And LaCompagnie also promises an in-flight celebration complete with Piper Heidsieck 2008 Champagne and Petrossian-branded caviar. When you've had your fill, recline on the carrier's angled-flat beds and wake up in Paris on New Year's Day. Tickets must be purchased by December 15. Information: the YOUR UNIQUE NEW YEAR'S EVE page.
LUFTHANSA: Premium Economy Below $1,300 Roundtrip to Europe This Winter
Coach airfares to Europe are at historic lows. So where does that leave premium economy this winter? At levels around where coach fares used to sell. Lufthansa, for example, has now broken the $1,300 roundtrip barrier for its premium economy, which offers 38 inches of legroom, footrests, upgraded meals and other nice perks. The $1,299 roundtrip price is only on one route--New York/Kennedy to Lufthansa's Frankfurt hub--but other runs are being offered at equally eye-popping rates: Washington-Naples for $1,609; LAX-Nice for $1,729; and Denver-Milan for $1,749. You must hurry: Tickets must be purchased by December 10 for departures between January 16 and March 22. Cheapest prices are for midweek travel, of course, and weekend surcharges are about $100 each way. A Saturday stay is required. Information: the EXPERIENCE PREMIUM ECONOMY page.
ITALY: The Battle to Replace Alitalia Seems to Be On
Transatlantic fares are plunging, especially in coach and premium economy, this fall and winter. So it's hard to say for sure whether the uber-low fares to Italy I'm seeing are a generic market condition or specific to the decline of Alitalia, the Italian flag carrier that is on the ropes again. Either way, though, there are some fabulous fares to be had, especially to Rome, where Alitalia maintains its hub.
AIR FRANCE is offering seats in its exceptionally good premium economy for as little as $1,439 roundtrip from New York to Rome via its Paris/CDG hub.
KLM is selling deeply discounted coach fares via its Amsterdam hub. The biggest bargains are from the West Coast: $637 (Los Angeles-Rome) and $701 (San Francisco-Rome).
TAP AIR PORTUGAL is selling coach seats from New York to Bologna for as little as $484 roundtrip. There are similar fares from its other gateways and prices even include a Portugal stopover of as many as five days.
BEST WESTERN: $10 Back on Every Stay in December and January
Best Western has a weak loyalty program, so its primary method of goosing up traffic in the slow months is cash--or cash equivalents. This cycle's promotion: a $10 electronic gift card for every stay until January 31. You have to register for the promotion, of course, and be a member of Best Western Reward, that weak frequency plan. Information: GO. GET. REWARDED. 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
HOTELS: It's Beginning to Look Like End-of-the-Year Sale Time
With the days dwindling down to a precious few (and me running out of song lyrics to paraphrase), hotel chains are beginning to offer sales to buck up end-of-the-year bookings. Some of these deals may be useful for your particular travel needs.
ACCOR claims its grab bag of global sales can cut 50 percent off your rates at more than 2,600 of its properties. The Private Sale includes 40 percent off on hotels in Paris; 30 percent off with full breakfast at British hotels; 30 percent off in Asia, the Americas, Australia and the South Pacific; 2-for-1 rates in Switzerland; and as much as 50 percent off in Africa and the Middle East. Confusing, eh? And the restrictions page is mind-numbingly dense with varying restrictions and applicable dates. But peck around, you might find what you need.
GLOBAL HOTEL ALLIANCE, a worldwide marketing group for 550 top-drawer properties, is trying to seduce you with double tier credits in its Discovery frequency program. For bookings through the end of the year, you'll receive twice the credits toward the plan's elite status for 2018. The black level, which requires 30 nights, is rich in perks, if not freebies. For more information, click here.
HYATT has revived the Places You Can Explore promotion. That'll knock around 25 percent off room rates at 180 hotels between December 15 and February 28. You must use promo code EXPL17 by January 15.
RADISSON hotels in six destinations in the Americas are offering upgraded rooms and lounge access for prices as low as $139 a night. The Dream Sweeter promotion is valid through February 28 when you use the promo code BLUDEAL.
WALDORF/CONRAD HOTELS: $50 a Day in Statement Credits at Hilton's Luxury Digs
When you affect luxury--as Hilton's Waldorf and Hilton brands do--rate cutting is frowned upon. Doesn't mean it doesn't happen, of course, but it is frowned upon nevertheless. The preferred method of lowering the price is by gimmicks. The current gimmick? A $50 statement credit for each night you spend in participating Waldorf and Conrad hotels. Three-day advance reservations are required and there are blackout dates. And as I always say with deals like this, always check to see whether a cheaper rate is available than the promoted gimmick. A two-night minimum stay is required. All Waldorf properties honor the promotion and 27 Conrad properties are participating. Waldorf is calling its $50-a-day BEST OF WALDORF. The Conrad promotion is called COMPLIMENTS OF CONRAD.
FAIRMONT HOTELS: The 'Moments' Discount Offers Take More Than a Moment to Decipher
The Fairmont group of upscale hotels, a mash-up of former CP Hotels, Princess Hotels and several more small chains, always promotes the Moments discount in the fall. That continues even now that Fairmont is part of French lodging giant Accor. But the promotion is complicated so it takes several moments to get through. The chain will cut as much as 30 percent off stays based on the number of days you book. You must reserve by April 6 for stays through April 30. Restrictions vary by hotel. One example: 15 percent off a one- or two-night stay at the Fairmont in San Jose, 20 percent off three- or four-night stays and 25 percent off a stay of five nights or more. At the Fairmont Vancouver, it's 15 percent off stays of up to two nights and 20 percent off stays of three nights or more. The sale applies to most Fairmont-branded properties in the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Information: the STAY LONGER. STAY MORE. page.
DRURY HOTELS: Suite Updates Through the End of the Year
Drury Hotels keeps winning customer-satisfaction survey after customer-satisfaction survey. But since its hotels are concentrated in flyover country--think Pittsburgh to Phoenix--the chain gets virtually no ink and little love from the media. Still, customers love the hotels, the friendly policies and the perks. (So does our resident hotel snob.) The latest perk: free suite upgrades until the end of the year. The space-available freebie requires you to print out a coupon and present it at the front desk at check-in. Seems simple enough. Information: the Drury YOU DESERVE A BREAK page.
GLOBAL AIRLINE DEALS TO CONSIDER
SINGAPORE AIRLINES: Notable Business Class Savings on a Grab Bag of U.S. Routes
No international airline serving the United States has a more interesting--okay, totally bizarre--route network than Singapore Airlines. With its Singapore hub too distant to reach nonstop with most aircraft, Singapore Air has settled for so-called "fifth freedom" nonstops to other cities. The result: Singapore has to discount to keep those so-called "secret flights" filled. Which explains why you can fly its superlative business class nonstop from New York/Kennedy to Frankfurt for as little as $2,505 roundtrip. Its nonstops from Los Angeles to Tokyo/Narita and Seoul are selling for as low as $3,530 and $3,428 roundtrip respectively. Restrictions are minimal and fares are valid for departures until March 31. One other note: Singapore Air now flies nonstop to Changi from San Francisco (16.5 hours in the air) with new Airbus A350 aircraft. The carrier is also discounting that route with a $4,198 roundtrip business class fare. It's available until March 31, but a 21-day advance purchase applies. Information: the BUSINESS CLASS FARE DEALS 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 Marrakech for as little as $839 roundtrip? Or New York to Algiers for $668 roundtrip? Or Los Angeles to Nairobi for $660 roundtrip? Or even Washington to Algiers for as little as $513 roundtrip. 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, too, requiring only a 7-day and Sunday-night stay. Information: the EXPLORE AFRICA TODAY 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 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.
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
UNITED/HERTZ: Really Awful Suppliers, Really Big Bonuses
What do Hertz and United Airlines have in common? Lessee, both operations run poorly. A former top United exec was ousted as Hertz chief executive for doing a lousy job. And United once actually owned Hertz. Other than that? Both are desperate for new 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. 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 almost two years. By the way, check your MileagePlus account. You may qualify for a promotion that offers up to 5,500 miles per Hertz rental. Information: the EARN AWARD MILES page.
AVIS/BUDGET/AMERICAN AADVANTAGE: Rent Three Days, Earn 1,000 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 1,000 American AAdvantage miles for a three-day rental. The deal is valid for rentals that begin by December 31. Information: the CAR PROMOTIONAL OFFERS 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 29. You will find some holiday blackouts, but, otherwise, it's open season for cheap cars. Information: the Enterprise $9.99 WEEKEND SPECIAL 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.
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
AIR CANADA: A Free Stopover in Toronto When You Book to Europe or Asia
Air Canada is looking to bulk up its international traffic from U.S. customers. Its lure: a free stopover in Toronto for as long as seven days. So if you've yearned for a week in Canada's financial and cultural hub and are flying to Europe or Asia, this is the deal for you. The free stop is available on higher-priced coach fares as well as premium economy and business class prices so long as you book your flights by December 31. A warning if you're not a regular Air Canada flyer. Do not book any flight marked Air Canada rouge. Those are flights configured with densely packed seats and a reputation for being the Canadian equivalent of waterboarding. Information: the TORONTO STOPOVER page.
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: PORTUGAL STOPOVER page.
CREDIT CARD BONUS OPPORTUNITIES
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.
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.