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THE BIG BARGAIN FOR SEPTEMBER 16-30, 2010
BMI: The Phantom of the U.S. Skies Has Another Business-Class Sale
British Midland International (the London/Heathrow-based subsidiary of Lufthansa sometimes still known as BMI) stopped flying to the United States after it pulled out of its Chicago, Washington and Las Vegas gateways. So how can it offer a business-class to Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East to U.S. travelers? Through its Star Alliance partner United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic. The strategy: Buy a ticket from BMI using United or Virgin Atlantic to London, then hop the British Midland flight to your destination. The strategy yields some great business-class prices, including $1,618 each way to Saudi Arabia; $1,340 each way to Moscow and $1,713 each way to Amman, Jordan. Those prices are for winter flights originating at Washington/Dulles until March 24. There are similarly low fares from other cities, including Chicago, Boston, Newark, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The roundtrip tickets must be booked by September 27. There's also a coach sale to the same destinations. Information: the British Midland International Web site.
THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE TRAVEL DEALS
US Airways: Buy a Lot of Dividend Miles Cheap! Again and Again and Again!
US Airways claims that it is a "limited time" offer, but it's become a regular strategy for the bottom fisher of the Star Alliance. It is offering a 100 percent bonus when you buy miles in its Dividend Miles program. In other words, if you buy 30,000 miles for 2.75 cents each, you'll get a 30,000-mile bonus. And since you can get some off-season, off-peak roundtrip business-class awards on US Airways to Europe for as little as 60,000 miles, your effective cost for transatlantic premium-class seats would be about $825 a ticket. Great deal, of course. Depending on your skill level, there are other ways to use the purchased miles well, especially since US Airways doesn't block awards on other Star Alliance carriers. But be warned: Buying miles to "bank" them is a losing proposition. You should have a specific itinerary in mind and know there are seats available before making a purchase. You can purchase as many as 50,000 miles or as little as 1,000 and score the double bonus. The current iteration of the offer expires on November 15. Information: the US Airways Buy miles page.
New York: No Free Lunch, But a Free Day of Parking at JFK
Nothing, not even the free lunches, are free in New York. That's what makes the current promotion from SmartPark JFK, an off-airport valet parking service near New York's Kennedy Airport, so interesting. Until October 15, SmartPark is giving the first day free on all parking. Pretty sweet. Additional days are $13.95 each. Information: the SmartPark JFK Web site.
Red Lion: It's Cold at Our Hotels, So We'll Discount Big
The Red Lion chain of hotels has a location in Anaheim, California. That's the entire list of its warm-weather destinations. All of the chain's other properties are in Oregon, Northern California, Washington, Idaho and other places that have cold winters. In other words, times when Red Lion will need to promote hard to keep their rooms filled. The solution? Red Lion's "Stay Red. Save Green." sale. Until February 28, rates are discounted by as much as 25 percent. The chain will knock 35 percent off the standard rate if you prepay a nonrefundable reservation. Information: the Stay Red page.
Hilton: A Free Third Night and More in Puerto Rico
Through its various brands, Hilton now has at least nine hotels in Puerto Rico. And Hilton has rounded them up to offer something of an umbrella promotion: the third night free and extra benefits such as spa discounts; casino credit; and dining discounts. Starting rates range from $129 a night at the Doubletree in San Juan to $189 a night at the El San Juan, which now trades as part of the Waldorf Astoria Collection. The third night free and other perks are available until January 15 if you book by October 31. To examine the hotel-specific offers at the properties in San Juan, Ponce and elsewhere, surf to the Puerto Rico Getaways page.
THE BIG HOLIDAY BUSINESS CLASS TO EUROPE SALES
Aer Lingus: Dublin and Shannon in Business Class for the Holidays
Aer Lingus is a little late to the game with the end-of-the-year business-class fare sale, but it's here now and the prices are good: $649 each way for Thanksgiving and just $719 each way for Christmas and New Year. The prices are valid from New York/Kennedy to either Dublin or Shannon. The travel period is November 21-December 1 for Thanksgiving and December 20-January 7 for the end of the year. A 3-day or Saturday-night stay and a 21-day advance purchase is required Information: the Business Class to Europe page.
Star Alliance: The Really Big Business-Class Sale of the Year
It used to be just Continental's big-bang sale, but now that the Houston-based carrier is part of the Star Alliance, most of its partners are playing as well. If you're looking to travel over Thanksgiving or in the Christmas/New Year season, the business-class bargains are irresistible. Prices start as low as $1,292 roundtrip (Newark-Dublin for Thanksgiving). The fares top out at about $1,800 (from Newark) and $2,168 from Continental's Houston hub. The major exception is Nordic destinations, where Star Alliance partner SAS has slightly different prices and travel dates. Its fares start at $1,520 roundtrip (Newark-Copenhagen for Thanksgiving) and top out at $2,820 (Chicago-Helsinki for end-of-the-year travel). Similar fares are also available from Air Canada, Lufthansa and United, the other major Star Alliance partners. Generally speaking, the Thanksgiving travel period is November 21-27 (outbound) and November 25-December 1 (return). The end-of-the-year dates are December 20-January 7 outbound and December 24-January 13 (return). A three-day minimum stay is required and taxes and fees are extra. There do seem to be blacked-out flights (mostly Continental's Europe nonstops from Houston and its Newark-Bristol, England, flights) and capacity is controlled. I'd move quickly before seats disappear. Information: the Continental Low Fares page, the SAS Business Holiday Sale page and the Lufthansa Business Class fares page.
OTHER GLOBAL AIRLINE DEALS THAT ARE STILL AVAILABLE
LAN: It's a Miracle! A Business-Class Sale to South America!
What's rarer than unicorns or hen's teeth? A business-class fare sale to South America, of course. But LAN has launched a systemwide sale up front and the prices are breathtaking. Samples: Miami to Ecuador (Quito, Guayaquil and Galapagos) for $899 roundtrip; Miami to Peru (Lima, Arequipa, Iquitos or Cuzco) for $999 roundtrip; New York to Guayaquil for $879 roundtrip; New York to Mendoza, Argentina, for $3,249 roundtrip; Los Angeles to Peru for $1,499 roundtrip; Los Angeles to Sao Paulo, Brazil, for $2,499 roundtrip; and San Francisco to Santiago for $2,599. Now the general restrictions: Purchase your tickets 30 days in advance by October 31 and travel until December 8. However, there are some deviations based on destination. Information: the Special Offers page.
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 very 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. Roundtrip prices from Korean's Chicago ($4,614) and New York ($5,296) gateways are higher, but still notable. Korean Air is also taking a run at Canadian travelers and the fares are even better than those being offered to U.S. flyers. The business-class fare is C$3,640 from Vancouver and C$4,440 from Toronto. All of the fares are valid on weekdays until December 31 if you book your flights by September 30. A 7-day advance purchase is required. Information: Korean Air's U.S. Hot Deals page and the Canada Hot Deals page.
Australia: Roughing It in Coach for Some Good Bargains
After years as the last bastion of high fares thanks to the Qantas-United duopoly, both incumbent carriers are discounting lustily these days. And why not? There's competition now since both Delta Air Lines and V Australia fly Down Under from Los Angeles. Right now, if you can rough it in coach, Qantas is selling roundtrips to Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane for $938 from either Los Angeles or San Francisco. It's $200 more from New York/Kennedy. The price is valid for departing travel between October 24 and November 17 if you book by September 30. United's sale to Sydney has different travel dates (September 22 to December 6) and prices: $778 roundtrip from Los Angeles or San Francisco; $918 from Denver; and $948 from Chicago. Information: the Qantas Visit Australia page and the United Sydney savings page.
Singapore Airlines: Well, Okay, If You Force Us, We Can Discount Something…
Let's just say that Asian carriers are reluctant to discount their premium classes. They don't understand the mindset nor the publicity value. And let's just say Singapore Airlines takes its reluctance to near-paranoid levels. So when SIA does, however begrudgingly, offer a business-class deal, it's worth noting. As you probably know, Singapore Air offers all-business-class nonstops from both New York/Newark and Los Angeles. Now the airline is offering a 12 percent discount on Tuesday and Wednesday departures and throwing in two free hotel nights in Singapore. (The hotels are the Fairmont Singapore and the Raffles Stamford.) To score the fare deal, you must travel on Tuesday or Wednesday on SQ37 (from LAX) or SQ21 (from EWR) before December 15. Tickets must be booked in D Class. To score the hotel deal, the travel window is slightly wider: September 1 to December 15 although the freebies are not available September 23-26. The free hotel nights are also available if you book business class on SQ61, Singapore's traditional Houston-Singapore service. Information: the Business Class and 2 Free Nights pages.
OTHER LODGING BARGAINS THAT ARE STILL AVAILABLE
Italy: ATA Hotels Makes a Play for U.S. Travelers (and Julia Roberts Fans)
What if you're a well-known Italian lodging chain with good hotels and top-notch resorts around Italy, but very little brand awareness in the United States? If you're ATA Hotels, you jump on the Eat Pray Love bandwagon and start flogging your 4- and 5-star properties to Italy-crazy American travelers. The chain makes a worthwhile offer, too. Stay three nights at any of their hotels or resorts and get a fourth night free. You'll get a complimentary "Welcome to Italy" dinner, too. The offer is valid for stays until March 31 if you book by September 30. Information: The ATA Hotels Special Offer page.
Starwood Hotels: Second Night at 40-50 Percent Off, Because It Looks Hot
As hotels struggle with low nightly rates and even lower occupancy rates, the marketing gurus at the major lodging chains continue to churn out promotions to entice added traffic. Starwood's current ploy: 40 percent (and sometimes as much as 50 percent) off on a second-night's stay. Now if you do the math, that's actually 20 percent off each night, which isn't necessarily great when you consider the restrictions: Your two-night stay must include a Thursday, Friday or Saturday arrival at hotels and a Sunday-Wednesday arrival at resorts. In other words, this is an off-peak promo and 20 percent isn't earthshaking. Use promotion code or ZBT or ZB4. The deal is available through December 30. Information: the Better Tomorrows 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 until to January 8. Information: 404-659-0400 for the downtown property and 404-237-2700 for Buckhead.
PACKAGE DEALS FROM AROUND THE WORLD
Sicily: Rocco Forte Goes All In, Visitors Not So Sure When Rocco Forte's Verdura Golf & Spa Resort opened last year on the Sicilian coast, a lot of visitors thought the super-deluxe property wasn't yet ready for primetime, especially at the typically stratospheric rates that Forte properties demand. But things have settled in this year and the golf course and spa have both won raves. Of course, the stratospheric rates remain, too. But there is some relief with the Exclusive Late Summer bundle. It includes three nights of lodging for two; daily breakfast each day; a three-course dinner each night; welcome cocktails and fruit; and a spa treatment or round of golf for each guest. Also included are the taxes. Another perk: breakfast and dinner for the kids if you're bringing them along. Not included: alcoholic beverages with dinner. The deal is available until October 30, which stretches the definition of late summer. But, of course, this is Sicily, so… Three-night packages start at 1,680 euros a couple. Information: the Exclusive Late Summer page.
Las Vegas: If You Really Want to Keep What Happens in Vegas in Vegas…
Cheesy as it may be, Sin City's catchphrase--What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas--has actually caught on. But if you're truly serious about keeping what happens in Las Vegas in Vegas, shouldn't you make absolutely sure no one even knows you're going to Vegas? To the rescue comes JetSuite, the private-jet firm that is built around the Phenom 100, the small, fast little sports car of corporate aircraft. It now offers a Vegas package that is virtually guaranteed to ensure your privacy: Roundtrip flights from Los Angeles to Las Vegas; private ground transportation; and two nights in a parlor suite at the five-star Wynn Las Vegas Resort. The package price is $4,998 during the week and $5,998 on weekends. The bundle, valid until December 31, is also available at different prices from other cities in JetSuite's service area. Information: 866-779-7770 and use promo code Ultimate Vegas Retreat.
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. The deadline is September 10. Information: the Irish Music Tour Web site.
FREQUENT TRAVEL PROGRAM PROMOTIONS OF NOTE
Choice Hotels: Stay Twice, Get a Free Night, But Your Choice Is, Um, Limited
The Choice Privileges frequent stay program doesn't get much ink, partially because the Choice Hotels brands--Comfort, Clarion and Rodeway Inn, among others--are so wildly inconsistent. But with about 6,000 properties in its portfolio, Choice probably shouldn't be ignored. And when two stays get you a free night--as the current Privileges promotion promises--attention should be paid. The current deal rewards two separate stays at any property before November 3 with enough bonus Privileges points to earn a free night at about 1,500 of the chain's hotels. A maximum of four free nights can be earned. Information: the Choice Earn a Free Night page.
Delta Air Lines: Triple Miles for Full-Fare Transcontinental Rides
Delta Air Lines is the interloper in the Transcon Triangle that links New York's Kennedy Airport with Los Angeles and San Francisco. As a result, it is usually the most active promoter on the routes. This fall's offer: triple SkyMiles when you fly full-fare coach or business class. The promotion is valid on transcon nonstops purchased in the high end of the coach spectrum (Y, B and M fare classes) and most business-class fares (classes J, C, D, S and I). You must register in advance by December 15 and fly by December 31. Expect Delta's primary competitors, American and United, to match the triple-miles offer in a matter of days.
National Car Rental: It's Back! Rent Twice, Get a Free Rental Day.
It's not as fanatically popular as Hyatt's Faster Free Nights deal, but National Car Rental's One Two Free promotion is almost as rich and nearly as anticipated. As usual, two rentals of a mid-sized or larger car for two consecutive days earn a free rental day. The qualifying rentals must be completed by January 31. The free rental days can be used until June 25. Most rental stations in the United States and Canada participate in the promotion, although there are blackout dates. You must register and be a member of Emerald Club. Information: the ONETWOFREE page.
Hotels: If It's The Fourth Quarter, There's a Points Promo…
Hotel chains continue to claim that business is markedly improved, but it is fairly clear that business travelers need incentives to book. So well before the start of the fourth quarter, major hotels chains have announced their quarterly promotions. They've even timed them to start a few days before the October 1 kick-off of the year's final quarter. Here's what is available already:
The Starwood Every Night Counts deal will award you double SPG points after your ninth night and triple points after your tenth night. And the bonuses are retroactive. In other words, when you hit the nine-night mark, you get the double points for all nine nights. Ditto for the triple points when you reach the tenth night. The earning period: September 8 to December 15. Registration is required and be warned: not all Starwood properties are playing. Check the list of participants carefully.
The Hyatt Great 10K promotion will generate 10,000 bonus Gold Passport points after every five nights. The earning period is September 15 to December 15. Registration is required. And here's some good news: You can earn 10,000 points for each five nights up to 180,000 points. That's a lot of nights, of course, but a lot of points, too.
The Marriott MegaBonus promotion offers a free night after every other paid stay between September 15 and January 15. There's a limit of two free nights. That's the published offer. But since Marriott makes separate offers to many slices of its membership, the published deal is, well, just the published one. Some members report being offered 5,000 bonus miles for every paid stay after the second stay with a maximum of 20,000 bonus points. And top-level elite players got still another offer: 35,000 bonus points after 20 paid nights and an additional 15,000 points after 25 paid nights. This year, unfortunately, all of the offers come with the return of an old fillip: You must pay with a Visa card for each stay. And, of course, you must register.
Starwood Hotels: New York on Sunday (Night) Is Worth 3,000 Points
There have been at least two songs written about New York on Sundays--prosaically enough, the tunes are called "New York on Sunday" and "Sunday in New York"--but none that I know about Sunday night in the Big Apple. But that hasn't deterred Starwood Hotels from rolling out a fairly rich promotion for Sunday night stays. At 11 of the chain's New York Metropolitan area outposts--eight in Manhattan and three in nearby New Jersey--all you have to do is stay over on a Sunday night and you'll receive 3,000 bonus Starwood Preferred Guest points. The deal is available until December 30 so long as you register in advance. One warning: not all of Starwood's New York area properties are playing, so check the list of participating hotels before you book.
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.
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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.