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THE BIG BARGAIN FOR OCTOBER 21-31, 2010
Virgin America: Coast to Coast, Far Too Cheap Again
Virgin America continues to claim that it's on track to profit, but its fares seem to tell a different story. Far too many of its transcontinental routes are far too cheap given the state of airfares in general, high load factors and the high (if not insanely high) cost of fuel. Consider some of these offers: Washington/Dulles to Los Angeles for $109 each way; Washington/Dulles to San Francisco for $119; Fort Lauderdale to San Francisco for $119; and Orlando to San Francisco for just $129. To grab the fares, tickets must be purchased by October 25 for travel until February 15. As you would expect, there are blackout dates around Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. And a 7-day advance purchase applies. Information: the Fares To Fly By page.

THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE TRAVEL DEALS
Air Canada: The Canadian Take On a Holiday Business-Class Sale
Star Alliance or not, Air Canada just doesn't roll the way other carriers do on the holiday business-class front. It won't do Thanksgiving fares, for example, although that's probably because Canada's Thanksgiving is in October. And it tends to offer flat-rate pricing from its gateway cities to all of its European destinations. From Montreal or Toronto, for example, virtually all of the business-class fares are C$1,374 one-way. It's C$1,674 from Calgary and Vancouver. And while the travel dates (December 20 to January 7 outbound and December 24 to January 13 on the return) and minimum stay (three days) mimic other Star Alliance carriers, Air Canada's tickets must be purchased by October 31. Information: the Holiday travel savings page.

United Airlines: Hawaii Real Cheap and Real Easy From the West
What do we hate about legacy airlines and most of their fare "sales"? High prices? Check. Advance-purchase restrictions? Check. Minimum-stay rules? Check. So what if I told you that United Airlines had done away with the high fares and the advance-purchase and minimum-stay annoyances in a few West Coast markets? And what if I told you the destination was Honolulu? Well, I'm telling you. For reasons unknown, United is making it real cheap and real easy to fly to Hawaii from Los Angeles ($200 each way); San Francisco ($190), San Diego ($255) and Phoenix ($205). Those prices would be notable under any circumstances, but with no minimum stay and no advance-purchase requirements, well, you may want to pull out your board and wax it pronto. You can travel until December 15, but don't expect to find these fares around Thanksgiving. A roundtrip purchase is required. Information: the Hawaii fall fares page.

Citi: A Whole Lot of AAdvantage Miles Without a Whole Lot of Spending
If you're into building your frequent flyer program balances cheap, you should not ignore this solicitation from American Airlines and Citi, its credit card issuer. Citi is offering three separate varieties of AAdvantage cards and the bonus is huge: 75,000 miles if you spend $1,500 on the card within the first six months. Citi is even waiving the membership fee for the first year. Needless to say, 75,000 miles for just $1,500 in spending is a steal. Your application must be in by October 31. Information: the Citi American Airlines AAdvantage page.

THE BIG HOLIDAY BUSINESS CLASS TO EUROPE SALES
American Airlines: We're Late! We're Late! For a Very Important Sale!
No matter that American Airlines was very late breaking its end-of-year business-class fare sale. No matter that it does not have a Thanksgiving travel component like the Star Alliance carriers. The good news is that American has launched a Christmas/New Year business-class fare sale to Europe and the promotional prices are valid from all of the carrier's international gateways. That is especially noteworthy for Dallas/Fort Worth flyers, who almost never get on the holiday sale gravy train. And full marks to American: Its Business Class Holiday Sale site offers five pages of prices and route combinations. Some samples: New York/JFK-Rome for $910 each way based on a roundtrip purchase; Boston-London for $986; Dallas/Fort Worth-Brussels for $985; Miami-Paris for $1,035; Chicago-Barcelona for $1,060; Los Angeles-Frankfurt for $1,188; and San Francisco-Madrid for $1,260. The outbound travel window extends from December 20 through January 7. Returns from Europe are permitted from December 24 to January 13. Tickets must be purchased by December 15.

Alitalia: Back From the Dead, With Holiday Business-Class Deals, Too
I've lost track of the number of times that Alitalia has been declared a dead airline flying. But new management, mostly from the Air One takeover, has inspired a modest revival. Some routes (most notably LAX-Rome for U.S. travelers) have been restored and the airline seems to be running more reliably. There are even the occasional innovations, including a premium economy class that was introduced earlier this year. But the best news of all, at least right now: Alitalia is offering Thanksgiving and end-of-the-year business-class bargains. Prices start as low as $1,598 roundtrip (New York to Rome or Milan) and include fares such as $2,198 (Boston to Rome or Milan), $2,398 (Miami or Chicago to Rome or Milan) and $2,798 (Los Angeles to Rome or Milan). The fares listed here are for the Thanksgiving period (November 21-27); the Christmas-New Year flights (December 20-January 7) are priced a little higher. The restrictions essentially match the holiday sale launched (see below) by Star Alliance carriers: 3-day minimum stay and 21-day nonrefundable advance purchase. Information: the Alitalia Special Offers page.

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.

United Airlines: Us, Too! Us, Too! We Have Holiday Business-Class Sales!
Continental Airlines and its other Star Alliance partners launched their traditional business-class holiday sales to Europe late in August (see above). So why should you be surprised that it's taken until now for United Airlines, the putative lead U.S. partner in Star, to catch up? But the good news is that United playing catch-up means good, targeted Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year business-class prices from United hubs such as Chicago and Washington/Dulles. To wit: Chicago to Paris for $1,802 roundtrip (Thanksgiving) or $2,102 (Christmas/New Year); Washington-Geneva for $1,852/$2,152; and Los Angeles-London for $2,104/$2,504. Travel restrictions mirror those of the other Star carriers (Thanksgiving travel from November 21-27 outbound; Christmas/New York travel from December 20-January 7; and 21-day advance purchase). Tickets must be purchased by December 15. Information: the United Holiday business class special page.

OTHER GLOBAL AIRLINE DEALS THAT ARE STILL AVAILABLE
British Airways: The Fall-Winter Sale Is a Little Late This Year
About a month later than usual, British Airways has unveiled it coach sale for the October-March travel period. This year's bonus is familiar: two free nights in tourist-class hotels with every pair of tickets purchased. The prices? About the same as last year, with some notable ups and downs. New York/Kennedy and Newark to London/Heathrow are pegged at $412 roundtrip, down $30 from last year. San Francisco-London is still a bargain at $558, up just $17 from last year. Last year's other bargain spot, Houston, is up $20 to $518. Other gateways: Boston at $488 roundtrip; Atlanta at $598; Seattle and Phoenix at $638; and Denver at $558. This year's insanely overpriced "sale" fare? Dallas/Fort Worth to London for $720. It must be just coincidence that London-based BA and DFW-based American Airlines were recently granted antitrust immunity and control virtually all of the traffic between the two cities. Tickets must be purchased by October 26 for travel between October 21 and April 3. BA's high fuel surcharge and Britain's equally high travel tax will add as much as $200 to the fare. The prices listed are for midweek travel; flights on Thursday-Sunday are $30 more each way. A 7-day advance purchase and Saturday stay are required. Information: the London on Sale page.

Korean Air: A Low Business-Class Fare to Seoul, With Strings
Korean Air has a great business-class fare to Seoul this fall: Just $3,263 roundtrip. That's about as low as it gets across the Pacific. But there are some (okay, many) notable strings: The fare is valid only on Korean Air Flight 2, which flies the Los Angeles-Tokyo-Seoul route. The price is only good only for midweek departures until November 30. And there is a 7-day advance purchase requirement. But if you can manage the restrictions, it's an especially good price considering that it includes the fuel surcharge. (You can cut the midweek string: Friday and Saturday departures cost $500 more.) Information: the Hot Deals page.

OpenSkies: You'll Always Have Paris, Right? Go Back and Save 20-25 Percent.
I'm going to assume that there is, in fact, a Rick or Ilsa in your life (I'm a optimist) and you both happen to be near Washington/Dulles (I'm a masochist). Those assumptions made, OpenSkies will give you 20-25 percent off a companion ticket to Paris/Orly. And you don't even have to get help from Senor Ferrari or pay any carrying charges. (Okay, I am a Casablanca fanboy.) The deal goes like this: British Airways' all-business-class boutique carrier will knock 20 percent off the price of a companion ticket in its BizSeat class and 25 percent off the price of a second ticket in its BizBed class. You have to book your two roundtrip tickets by October 22 and fly on the IAD-ORY route by March 31. Two fillips: You must book at the special OpenSkies page and you won't earn BA Executive Club miles on the flights. And a reminder from me: Deals like this may not always offer the lowest price. Be sure to round up the usual discount suspects before booking this twofer.

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. There are some deviations based on destination. Information: the Special Offers 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 open until December 15. 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
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.

Puerto Rico: A Free Third Night and More From the Hilton Family
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.

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.

FREQUENT TRAVEL PROGRAM PROMOTIONS OF NOTE
Hilton HHonors: Double Fourth-Quarter Points, Quadruple If You Add a Sunday
The Hilton chain is late to the fourth-quarter points promotion derby, but Hilton HHonors has an interesting twist. The basic promotion--double base points for stays at most Hilton Family properties until December 30--isn't particularly notable. But the twist is enticing: If your stay includes a Sunday night, Hilton will award quadruple points for the entire visit. Registration is required (do it here) and there are a large number of properties that aren't participating. (The list of outliers is shown as a link on the registration-confirmation page.) Another notable caveat: Most rates available from third-party Web sites do not qualify for the so-called Spend a Sunday promotion. So make your reservations through Hilton's 800-number or the Web site.

Country Inns & Suites: Stay One Night, Earn 15,000 Bonus Gold Points
Country Inns & Suites, Carlson's fairly well-regarded limited-service brand, is looking to pump up its weeknight business. The lure: 15,000 bonus Goldpoints, which is enough to earn a free night at some Country Inns properties. Which isn't bad when you consider that you only need to stay one weekday night to get the bonus. The offer is valid Sunday through Thursday nights until November 21. The bad news: You can only qualify for one 15,000-point bonus. Information: the Stay One Night page.

Airlines: 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, Delta is usually the most active promoter on the routes. So it was first out of the box with an end-of-the-year 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 and most business-class fares. You must register by December 15 and fly by December 31. Then American Airlines matched (again, registration is required). It took until this week for United to match. Before you book, though, make sure your fare class is included in the promotion. Unless it's overpriced, it's probably not.

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.

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.

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 fourth-quarter frequent guest promotions are required. Here's what is available:
     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.
     Priority Club Rewards, which includes InterContinental, Holiday Inn and other brands, is offering a choice of free nights or double points. Two stays before December 31 will get you one free night or you can choose to earn double points for each stay before December 31. What's the catch? You must register, of course, and must choose either free nights or bonus points for the promotion period. You can earn a maximum of five free nights and they can only be used between December 1 and May 31. Oh, and one restriction that you might not have expected: InterContinental's Asia/Pacific properties are not playing in the free-nights promotion.

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.

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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.