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THE BIG BARGAIN FOR JULY 22-AUGUST 5, 2010
British Airways: A Dodge-the-Next-Strike Sale Up Front
British Airways all but halted its price promotions as it cut back on its transatlantic capacity in recent years and has been involved in more than seven months of strikes and potential strikes by cabin crews. The news on the strike front still isn't good--flight attendants voted down another contract this week--but there is a window of opportunity for a sale. Why? Even if it was to start now, the flight attendants union would need five or six weeks to arrange another strike ballot and then give the required legal notice of a work stoppage. The result: BA is threading the strike needle and has launched a business-class sale for travel beginning between August 5 and September 5. Prices are as low as $2,398 roundtrip to London/Heathrow from New York/Kennedy or Newark. It's $2,818 roundtrip from Chicago, $3,518 from Los Angeles and $3,558 from San Francisco. Similar prices are available from BA's other U.S. gateways. Expect to pay about $250 more in taxes. There is also a sale on onward travel to Europe and some Asian cities. One example: New York-Tel Aviv for $2,990 roundtrip. To snare the lowered prices, tickets must be purchased by July 31 and you must stay over on a Saturday, but you can return anytime within 11 months from your date of departure. Of course, guessing BA's strike situation 11 days, 11 weeks or 11 months out will be the challenge. Information: the BA Web site.

THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE TRAVEL DEALS
South African Airways: Buy One, Get One Free--But Save Only About $250
If I told you that you could save about $250 on a pair of tickets to Johannesburg, you'd probably say that was a pretty good deal. It's too bad the folks at South African Airways and American Express have to phony it up by claiming it's a "buy one, get one" (BoGo) bargain. According to SAA and Amex, two people traveling together can fly for the price of just one ticket, which the firms peg at $1,779 roundtrip. Taxes and fees of $140 a person are extra, bringing the total price of the supposed BoGo to $2,059. But here's the rub: You can buy a ticket to Jo'burg for an all-in price of $1,159, meaning a pair of seats really costs $2,318. In other words, the supposed BoGo offer represents a savings of only $250. SAA ran the same phony deal last year, although back then the savings was around $100. So I guess we can say things are getting better. To score the savings, you must pay with an American Express card and travel from New York/Kennedy or Washington/Dulles between September 13 and March 31. (The December 10-January 15 holiday period is blacked out.) Tickets must be purchased by September 8. Information: the South African Airways Specials page.

Airlines: Meet the Fall Fare Sale, Almost the Same as the Old Fall Fare Sale
So if you scroll back to this time last year, the Steals and Deals Page had news of an early break on the fall fare sales. Well, the airlines are doing it again, in a form (and with prices) that is eerily similar to last year. So if you can handle the déjà vu all over again, here's what's on offer for this fall:
    Southwest Airlines has posted fares as low as $49 one-way for travel between September 7 and December 14. The lowest prices are for travel on Tuesday and Wednesday if you purchase your tickets by August 5. Flights to and from Washington/Dulles are not included. Information: the Special Offers page.
    Delta Air Lines has put its global network on sale until November 17 if you purchase seats by July 29. A 21-day advance purchase roundtrip is required and the travel dates differ a bit for some international destinations. Sample prices: $74 one-way for New York/LaGuardia-Raleigh; $124 one-way for Los Angeles-Cincinnati; and $409 one-way for Seattle-Beijing. Information: the Fall Flights on Sale page.
    Virgin America has a sale with prices starting at $59 one-way (San Francisco-San Diego) and reaching $149 one-way (Boston-Los Angeles). Tickets must be purchased by July 26 and a 14-day advance purchase restriction applies. Travel is permitted between August 24 and November 17, although Friday and Saturday flights are blacked out. Information: the Fares to Fly By page.
    American Airlines has posted a domestic fall fare sale with prices that range from $69 to $165 each way. Roundtrip travel and a 10-day advance purchase are required; the lowest fares are available on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. Tickets must be purchased by July 29 and travel is permitted until November 17. Information: the Flight Deals Across the U.S. page.

OTHER GLOBAL AIRLINE DEALS THAT ARE STILL AVAILABLE
Korean Air: Seoul, in Business Class, Cheaper--If You Book Ahead
Korean Air is trying to shed its commodity image and present itself as a high-end airline. (You've undoubtedly seen those odd television spots with the powder-blue palette.) But that doesn't mean there aren't bargains to be found, especially up front in business class. At the moment, the deal is to Seoul. It's $3,628 roundtrip from San Francisco and $3,871 from Seattle and Los Angeles. Prices from Korean's Chicago and New York gateways are higher and not quite as good. The fares are valid on weekdays until December 31 if you book your flights by August 31. Information: the Hot Deals page.

Aer Lingus: Low Fares to Dublin Up Front This Fall
There's a new terminal opening in Dublin later this year and that should give Aer Lingus a boost as it tries so reposition its transatlantic service as a starting point for a British and European itinerary. It also means continued notable deals on business-class travel. The current price is just $1,049 each way between New York and Dublin or Shannon. The fare is valid for travel between September 1 and December 15 if you book by July 30. Information: the Aer Lingus Web site.

LAN: We've Got a Secret Route and You Get a Discount
The peculiarities of global aviation regulations and the even stranger nature of how carriers run their route networks sometimes mean strange airlines flying strange routes. So that explains why LAN, the Chile-based airline, flies between New York and Toronto. But since almost no one knows LAN flies between the United States and Canada, the airline needs to offer some discounts to fill the seats. The price: $85 each way with a relatively modest 7-day advance purchase. The fare is available on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Information: the Spectacular chance page.

Finnair: Fly Us to India and China. Really. No Kidding.
Okay, everyone who thinks Helsinki when they are planning a trip to India or China, raise your hands. Yeah, I thought so. And it explains why Finnair is offering special fares from New York to Delhi, Shanghai or Beijing via its Helsinki hub. The price: Just $3,199 roundtrip in business class to Delhi and $3,599 roundtrip to Beijing or Shanghai. Although the fares are capacity controlled, there seems to be no other travel restrictions. Information: the Fly in style page.

OTHER LODGING BARGAINS THAT ARE STILL AVAILABLE
Florida: Play Ball! How 'Bout Them Rays?
Now that baseball's All-Star break is over, the second half of the season is officially under way. And much to the surprise of some, the Tampa Bay Rays are just two games behind the mighty (and mighty annoying) New York Yankees in the America League East. If you want to get on the Rays bandwagon (and stop whining about injuries, you Red Sox fans), check out the Home Run Baseball Getaway package at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort in St. Petersburg. For prices that start as low as $169 a night, you will receive lodgings; breakfast for two; transportation to and from Tropicana Field, home of the Rays; and a "spectator survival kit" that includes a tote bag, Cracker Jack, bubble gum, peanuts and padded seat cushions. You are on your own for actual game tickets, though. The package is available on a variety of game days until the end of the season. And if you're looking for a showdown with the Yankees, look at July 30-August 1 and September 13-15. Use promotion code SPE to score the package. Information: the Deals and Packages page.

Atlanta: Hello, Dali! Hey, How Could You Not Call It That?
Atlanta's respected High Museum of Art is mounting a major exhibition of the later works of Salvador Dali. Some of the 40 pieces haven't been on public display in half a century. To capitalize on the show, appropriately called "Salvador Dali: The Late Work," the two Ritz-Carlton hotels in Atlanta are bundling tickets and accommodations. The package includes overnight lodgings; valet parking; American breakfast for two; and two tickets to the Dali show. Rates start at $229 at the Ritz-Carlton on Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta and $259 at the Ritz-Carlton in Buckhead. The Dali package is available from August 7 to January 8. Information: 404-659-0400 for the downtown property and 404-237-2700 for Buckhead.

Hilton Garden Inn: $10 a Night in 'Fun Bucks' on Weekends This Summer
As hotel chains struggle to get their nightly rates up and attract customers, the battle of choice this summer is value-added perks. Marriott's brands have been using gift cards (see below). Hilton Garden Inn, on the other hand, is going for its own scrip. If you are an AAA/CAA member and book a weekend AAA/CAA rate, Hilton Garden Inn will give you $10 of "fun bucks" each night. The scrip is good for purchases in the chain's 24-hour "Pavilion" food shops or the on-site restaurants--or even for in-room, pay-per-view movies. The promotion is valid for stays on Friday, Saturday or Sunday nights until September 5. By the way, the AAA/CAA rate at Hilton Garden Inn is usually the lowest price available except for the chain's advance-purchase, prepaid promotions Information: the Summer Bucks page.

Courtyard by Marriott: We Got a Weekend Gift Card Offer, Too!
Why doesn't this surprise me? Courtyard by Marriott is giving $20 Visa gift cards for weekend stays this summer. I mean, all of Marriott's other brands are going the gift card route this summer (see below) as a way to maintain its supposed "rate integrity." Now that Courtyard is in, the entire Marriott Family is playing. Courtyard's offer is valid for weekend stays between June 18 and September 6 if you include a Friday or Saturday night stay. To score the a card, however, you must book by July 30 and reserve at least seven days in advance. You can earn a $20 card for each weekend night up to $40 a stay. Use code CYS. Information: the Celebrate Summer page.

Taj Hotels: Bring Your Jag for Free
Sometimes goofy promotions have a backstory and this is one of them. The three Taj Hotels in the United States--Taj Boston, The Pierre in New York and Campton Place in San Francisco--will give you free parking with your stay if your car happens to be a Jaguar. Why such a weird and specific offer? The Taj Hotels chain is owned by the Tata Group, the gigantic India-based conglomerate that also recently purchased Jaguar from Ford. Of course, Tata also owns Corus, the company that used to be known as British Steel. So look for a Taj promotion that includes some kind of value-added offer if you show up with a length of Corus rebar. Meanwhile, the free parking for your Jaguar offer is valid through September 6. Information: 866-969-1825

PACKAGE DEALS FROM AROUND THE WORLD
Ireland: When JoeSentMe Members Package Travel, We Get a Discount
JoeSentMe member Jon Kiger is organizing a ground package surrounding November's Traditional Music Festival in Ennis, Ireland, and he's offering other JoeSentMe members a $100 discount. The package, from November 11-16, includes four nights at a four-star hotel in Ennis (County Clare); a night in an airport hotel in Dublin; ground transportation between Dublin and Ennis; two dinners and daily breakfast; admission to three nightly concerts at the festival; and a half-day tour of Dublin. Before the JoeSentMe member discount, the bundle costs $1,295 a person based on two people traveling together or $1,495 for single travelers. If you arrive in Shannon rather than Dublin, the price is $125 less. Information: the Irish Music Tour Web site.

Argentina: Good Food, Good Wine, Time to Relax--and Learn Spanish, Too
What if I told you that you can rent a studio apartment for a week in Mendoza, the stylish capital of the Argentine wine region? What if they threw in breakfast and lunch during the week, too? What if they included airport transfers? And then added three hours of lessons a day during the week in a program called "Spanish for Grown-Ups." What if the weekends were free for tourism, dining and wine tasting? And what if the price was only $425 a person per week? Too good to be true, you say? If I didn't know the sponsors, I'd agree with you. But I do know them. One is even an award-winning journalist. Both are ex-pat Americans who've lived in Mendoza for years. In other words, this is a nearly perfect opportunity to relax, learn some Spanish and catch up with the wines of Argentina. The $425 price is based on two people in a studio (they are complete with private bath and kitchenette) and only in the month of September. There's a two-week minimum and you're free to make your own flight arrangements. Information: the Spanish for Grown-Ups page. And tell 'em "Joe Sent Me."

FREQUENT TRAVEL PROGRAM PROMOTIONS OF NOTE
Hyatt: A Big, Big Bonus for American AAdvantage Players
Interested in racking up a lot of miles in the American AAdvantage program? A new promotion from Hyatt Hotels is definitely the fast track. You'll earn 3,000 AAdvantage miles every time you stay at a Hyatt hotel until October 15. You can rack up as many as 60,000 miles during the promotion. To get the deal, make sure you register first and are a Hyatt Gold Passport member. Then provide both your Gold Passport and AAdvantage number when you book and when you check in. And make sure to request AAdvantage miles during the check-in process.

Hilton HHonors: First Out of the Box With a Third-Quarter Promotion
Hilton continues to inherit the wind for its massive devaluation of Hilton HHonors at the beginning of the year. Hilton promised that the devaluation would come with a step-up in promotions, but the company's efforts have been rather pedestrian. The latest one from HHonors--double points or miles for each stay--isn't much more interesting, but it does have a benefit: It's the first third-quarter promotion announced by any of the major chains. The offer runs through September 30 and you must register and choose either double HHonors points or double airline miles.

American Express: Triple Membership Rewards Points for Airline Purchases
Buying an airline ticket? American Express wants you to use your Amex card and it is offering a card-based version of "triple miles." If you register and your Amex card gives you Membership Rewards points, you'll get three times the points for airline purchases until September 30. You can earn as many as 15,000 bonus points during the promotion. You must register using code 17677001. Information: the Bonus Points page.

Priority Club: Simple Bonus (Points or Dollars), Really Complicated Rules
Priority Club Rewards, the frequent stay program for InterContinental, Holiday Inn and several other brands, has an interesting new promotion called Hit It Big. You can earn double points or $500 in gift cards for stays until August 31. Simple, right? You can choose either the extra points or the gift cards that are valid at 300 retailers. It's the rules that are complicated. Some hotels allow you to accrue the bonus with the first stay, others with the second and some of the awards are only available based on weekend stays. It's really complicated and I counted almost 900 words that explained how and when and why you earn. I leave it to you to figure out if you play in Priority Club. All I know is that you have to register here and choose either the bonus points or gift vouchers.

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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.