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THE BIG BARGAIN FOR APRIL 8-APRIL 22, 2010
Southwest Airlines: Double Credits for Flights This Spring
Word continues to circulate that Southwest Airlines is close to announcing a major revamp of its Rapid Rewards program. In the meantime, however, it's impossible to complain about its current promotion: double credits for flights in April and May. The so-called Double Credit Days promotion offers two Rapid Rewards credits for every flight until May 26. You'll get 2.25 credits for purchasing a Business Select fare on flights up to 750 miles and 3 credits for longer-haul flights. In Southwest's program, its takes 16 credits to earn a free flight. The only catch? You have to register here to take advantage of the promotion.

THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE TRAVEL BARGAINS
Hilton: A Second-Quarter Promotion. You Decide Its Value.
When Hilton devalued its Hilton HHonors program, the hotel chain promised it would get more aggressive with short-term promotions. It's up to you to decide if this counts as aggressive. For the second quarter, Hilton is offering double points for all stays or will give you a free night after four stays. That's about half as generous as Hyatt's second-quarter promotion (see below), but Hilton would respond that it has about four times more participating properties than Hyatt. The specifics are this: Through June 30, travelers who register here can choose to receive double HHonors points or a free stay after every four paid stays or ten paid nights. Free night certificates are valid for a year.

American/Delta: Spend Big on the Transcon, Get Beaucoup Miles
Delta Air Lines and American Airlines are battling it out on the transcon routes this spring between New York and Los Angeles and San Francisco. The preferred weapon is bonus miles. If you're willing to spend for a less-restrictive coach ticket or first or business class, both airlines will reward you with beaucoup miles. Delta was first out of the box with its offer of 25,000 SkyMiles per flight in its BusinessElite cabin. You'll get 12,500 miles each way if you buy a Y, B or M class coach ticket. American has now matched, offering 25,000 AAdvantage miles for a business- or first-class booking and 12,500 miles for a coach ticket in Y, D or I class. The promotion runs through June 30 on each carrier. Register for the Delta deal here. Register for American's offer here.

THE SECOND QUARTER HOTEL FREQUENCY PROMOTIONS
Starwood Hotels: A Quicky 'Insider' Bonus Points Offer in April
Starwood Hotels must have gotten caught off-guard by Hyatt's second-quarter promotion (see below) offering a free night after every two paid nights. So it has responded with a quick, simple offer to folks who sniff around the FlyerTalk boards: 1,000 Starwood Preferred points for each stay in April. It's available at all but a handful of Starwood's 1,000 properties and seems to be combinable with any other offer available. The only caveat: You must register before your April stays.

Hyatt Gold Passport: First Out of the Box With a 2Q Promotion
As the major hotel family with the smallest number of properties, Hyatt has to be nimble and quick with its promotions, so it won't surprise you that it is first out of the box with a second-quarter offer. The Big Welcome Back offers 5,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points or a free night award after every two paid stays between April 1 and June 30. There is no limit to the number of awards or bonus points you can earn and the free award nights can be redeemed between April 1 and August 31. Expect all of the other hotel families--Starwood, Hilton, Marriott, etc.--to roll out their second-quarter promotions within the next few days. To qualify for the Big Welcome Back promotion, you'll have to register your preference for either the points or the free nights.

BUSINESS-CLASS BARGAINS AROUND THE WORLD
ANA: We're Japanese. We Hate Discounting…
The only people who seem to hate discounting more than the Germans are the Japanese, so you shouldn't be surprised at the extraordinarily limited opportunity to take advantage of this All Nippon Airways business-class bargain. If you can travel between April 15 and May 31, ANA has cut business-class fares as low as $4,029 roundtrip. That price covers flights from Los Angeles or San Francisco to Tokyo, Osaka or Nagoya. It's $100 more if you want to travel from Chicago and it's $4,629 roundtrip if you're flying from New York/Kennedy or Washington/Dulles. Oh, as if that wasn't targeted enough, you'll have to purchase your tickets by April 28. Information: the Limited Biz Value Fares page. (Well, at least they were honest in naming the page…)

Continental Airlines: Better Late Than Never, The Summer Sale
Continental Airlines is the unquestioned creator of the summer business-class sale to Europe, but this year it was beaten to the punch by some of its Star Alliance partners, United and SAS (see below). Still, Continental seems to understand the market best and its fares this year, to a few markets, are even lower than last year. From Continental's Newark hub, prices are as low as $759 one-way to Birmingham, England. It's $859 one-way to Belfast, Northern Ireland; Edinburgh, Manchester and Brussels. It's $909 one-way to Amsterdam, Geneva, London, Lisbon, Munich, Stockholm or Zurich. But prices are notably higher this year to Italy (Rome and Milan) and Spain (Barcelona and Madrid). At slightly higher fares, the sale is also valid from Continental's Cleveland and Houston hubs and on connecting service through Newark. The travel window is a few days smaller than last year (July 5 to September 3 to Europe, return by September 9), the restrictions are modest (a Saturday-night stay) and the 60-day advance purchase rule is not particularly relevant since we're talking about summer travel. Information: the BusinessFirst to Europe page.

United Airlines: Wow! A Summer Business-Class Sale Already!
Had enough of the cold weather? Well, don't head to Europe now because its weather is worse than ours and most Europeans have even less tolerance for it than we do. But here's an intriguing idea: Europe in the summer, when it is (or should be) warm. And, shockingly, United Airlines has already launched a summer fare sale to Europe. Prices are not insanely low, but they are good and it might be wise to book now if you're the kind of person who likes to plan in advance. The outbound travel window is July 5 to September 5 and return travel must be completed by September 9. Sample prices: Washington/Dulles to Brussels for $1,075 each way; Chicago-Paris for $1,225; Denver-London for $1,325; and San Francisco-Frankfurt to $1,325. The restrictions: roundtrip, nonrefundable purchase and a Saturday stay required. Information: the Summer in Europe page.

OTHER TRAVEL BARGAINS AVAILABLE AROUND THE WORLD
Qantas: Sit in the Back, Buy in Advance, Save a Lot
After years of sitting on the deals sidelines, Qantas is suddenly discounting like crazy in an attempt to fill its seats to the lands Down Under. The current offer in coach: as low as $698 roundtrip to Sydney, Brisbane or Melbourne from Los Angeles or San Francisco. The catches? You'll pay as much as $200 more in extra charges and you must book your tickets by April 27. The valid travel dates are April 19-June 8 and July 24-September 21. Flights from New York, where Qantas has a so-called "behind gateway" connection, cost $200 more. You can also fly to Auckland for $798 roundtrip from Los Angeles or San Francisco or $998 from New York. The valid travel dates are slightly different for the New Zealand service. Information: the Hop. Skip. Jump. page.

Air Lingus/Ritz-Carlton: Four People, Two Rooms, One Car, One Great Deal
Disastrous economic times make for strange bedfellows and that's why this Aer Lingus and Ritz-Carlton deal to Ireland is so stunning. If four people can travel together, it's one of the very best I've ever seen, in fact. It includes roundtrip business-class seats on Aer Lingus to Dublin; six nights in a suite and an interconnecting room at the Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt in County Wicklow just south of Dublin; six nights use of a full-size automatic rental car including free mileage and GPS navigation system; daily breakfast; and a dinner at Gordon Ramsay's Restaurant at the hotel. Until April 30, the price is $2,299 a person based on four traveling together from either New York/Kennedy or Boston/Logan. It's $50 more a person from Chicago/O'Hare. There are also slightly higher prices for travel in May through August and special pricing if it's just two people traveling. Information: the Ultimate Affordable Luxury page at the Aer Lingus Vacation Store Web site.

Westin Hotels: How 'Bout That? A Deal for Business Travelers!
Hotel chains like Westin that cater to business travelers rarely offer us a break on the rate. They usually save the discounts and promotions for the weekends, when we'd rather be back at home base. But kudos to Westin for this one: Stay twice at any Westin in the United States and Canada during the week by May 13 and they'll throw you a $100 Amazon Gift Card. You must register for the promotion by April 30, but otherwise it seems straightforward enough: Stays between Sunday and Thursday qualify and you must be a member of the Starwood Preferred Guest program. You can earn as many as three gift cards during the promotional period. Information: the Welcome Back to Balance page.

Boscolo Hotels: 52 Weekends in 11 Cities in Europe for One Price (€1,880)
The Italy-based Boscolo Hotels chain has invented one of the most creative promotions in years. The Boscolo Key Card costs €1,880 a year and is valid for 52 weekend stays. The stays (check in Saturday or Sunday and check out Sunday or Monday) can be claimed in 11 cities: Bologna, Rome, Milan, Florence, Venice, Verona and Varese, Italy; Nice or Lyon, France; Prague; and Budapest. You can stay as many as five times in each city during the year whenever a standard, superior or deluxe room is available. The €1,880 price includes the VAT tax, but not breakfast. Pretty fabulous deal if you can get enough use out of the card. Information: the Boscolo Key Card page.

Scotland: All Those Islands, the Highlands and David Rowell, Too
David Rowell, our friend The Travel Insider, puts together a few trips a year for small groups of folks who want a more customized experience. His current package is an 11-day trip that covers Scotland's Inner and Outer Hebrides and the Scottish Highlands. Besides David's personal attention (he escorts each group), David chooses the accommodations, arranges the itinerary and plays the genial host. (Well, he doesn't just play the genial host. He is a genial host!) Besides, he knows where all the good whisky is, too. (I know. On his last Scotland trip, he even found a Scotch I could drink and I don't even like whisky!) This year's tour begins on June 14. The price has just been reduced to $2,595 a person and may go lower still if the group expands a bit. Check out complete details here.

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THE FINE PRINT Nobody pays their way onto this page. I post the deals solely for the benefit of members based on my perception of what is a great price or a terrific value. The prices do not include applicable taxes unless specifically stated. Assume there are weird restrictions and caveats I never thought to ask about. Unless otherwise stated, you should be able to book these deals at any travel agency or directly from the listed travel supplier. Never assume that these prices (or any price listed publicly) are the lowest that are available. You should always ask if there’s a cheaper price or better deal. Virtually everything is capacity controlled or subject to blackout days, based on availability and subject to abrupt change whenever they think they can squeeze us for a few extra bucks. Please do not suspend your inbred skepticism. Don’t blame me if these deals are sold out when you try to book at these prices, but do let me know if you think that we're being scammed. It's important to expose the fakers and phonies. -- Joe Brancatelli

This column is Copyright © 2010 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2010 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.