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THE BIG BARGAIN FOR JANUARY 5 TO 19, 2012
Frontier Airlines: $39 One-Way Fares and Lots of Questions
It's hard to know exactly what to make of Frontier, the misbegotten mashup of the old Frontier and Midwest airlines now run by Republic Airways, the big commuter carrier. The route network is strange, the fleet is bizarre and service is sketchy. Still, a deal is a deal so you might want to check out the New Year's Sale. Prices start at $39 one-way and include: Boston-Denver for $110 each way; Milwaukee-Fort Lauderdale for $138; Los Angeles-Nashville for $80; and New York/LaGuardia to Kansas City for $98. Tickets must be purchased by January 12 for flights through March 7. There's a 7-day advance purchase and blackout dates around the President's Day weekend. Information: the New Year's Sale.

THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE TRAVEL BARGAINS
American AAdvantage: Three Airlines, Big Bonuses, High Fares, Second Chance
Now-bankrupt American Airlines is once again busily promoting its joint venture with IAG, the so-called International Airlines Group that is the parent firm of both British Airways and Iberia. So it is reviving its so-called AAdvantage Boost promotion launched last year. And if you can pay the fares--full economy, business or first--American is offering a lavish transatlantic bonus scheme until March 15. The first transatlantic roundtrip on any of the carriers earns 25,000 bonus AAdvantage miles. The second earns 35,000 miles. The third and all future roundtrips earn 45,000 miles. Better yet: There's no limit to the number of bonuses you can earn before the end of the promotion. The bonus is also available if you fly in BA's premium economy cabin, called World Traveller Plus. The only caveat? You must register and fly on the appropriate fares, which are clearly noted on the promotion's site. Information: the AAdvantage Boost page.

Finnair: Up Front Over the Top of the World Under $3,000 Roundtrip
Even though it's in the Oneworld Alliance, Finnair seems to have fallen off the travel map of many business travelers. So the carrier is attempting to revive its profile at the crucial New York gateway with a steady stream of discount offers. The latest: Deep discounts in business class if you use Finnair's compact and efficient Helsinki hub to connect to Europe. Especially noteworthy are some great fares to Eastern Europe, long a forte of Finnair. For around $2,950 roundtrip, for instance, you can fly business class from Kennedy Airport to Kiev, Ekaterinburg and Prague. There are plenty of other destinations throughout Europe for less than $3,000 roundtrip. The fares require you to use Flights AY006 and AY005 between New York and Helsinki. That makes Finnair's bargains from Miami, San Francisco and Los Angeles somewhat less attractive than the price would indicate. There's a 21-day advance purchase and a $20 surcharge for weekend flights. Information: the Connect page.

YOU WANT MILES AND POINTS? THEY GOT 'EM...
Hotels: First Quarter Points Promotions? The Story So Far.
As major hotel groups gear up for the traditionally weak first quarter, details on their regular-as-clockwork quarterly points promotions are beginning to leak out. They are more complicated, and less rich, than those of previous years. That may mean that the chains are expecting improved travel conditions or that they are tone deaf to the signs of weakness in the business-travel community. You get to decide. Meanwhile, here's what we know so far:
    Hilton HHonors, already suffering from its stealth devaluation in the fourth quarter, isn't likely to win too many fans with its first quarter offer: From January 1 to March 31, HHonors members receive 1,000 bonus points per night. A two-night weekend stay (Thursday-Friday or Friday-Saturday) will receive 5,000 bonus points. In contrast, last year's first-quarter promo offered as much as quadruple points. One benefit this year: The bonuses are stackable, so it's possible to receive the 5,000-point weekend bonus and the 1,000-point bonus for each night. On the downside, there's a lengthy list of Hilton properties that won't offer the promotion. Registration is required, of course.
    Marriott Rewards is up to its usual Megabonus game: A public promotion that is superceded by private offers to members based on their travel pattern and elite status. The public offer is a free night in a lower-priced (Category 1-4) Marriott property after two stays between February 1 and April 30. According to travelers, private offers range from 25,000 points for 15 nights of stays to 50,000 points for 25 nights of stays. Registration is required and you should check your Marriott Rewards account for your special offer.
    Priority Club Rewards, the frequency plan of InterContinental, is also doing what it does in the first quarter: Issue a blizzard of different offers to its travelers in hopes that specifics won't leak out. But they do, of course. The best deal for infrequent stays is 5,000 points after three nights. Another good one is 10,000 points after seven nights. The offers seem to top out at 15,000 points for 15 nights. The promotion period runs from January 1 to March 31.
    Starwood Preferred Guest has slated its first quarter Better by the Night offer to run January 9 to April 8. Although you can't register until January 9, here's the offer: Double Starpoints on two-night stays and triple Starpoints for three-night stays. Only 750 of Starwood's more than 1,000 properties are playing, however, and no Starwood hotel in Asia is participating. Here are the other properties that won't honor the promotion.

Southwest Airlines: Double Elite Points For All and For Some Even More...
Southwest Airlines' Rapid Rewards program is out with a double-barreled double-points promotion. All Rapid Rewards members earn double elite-tier points for each flight flown until January 31. In six markets--New York/LaGuardia, Newark, Orlando, Boston, Manchester and Providence--travelers will also earn double points on flights through February 15. You have to register for each promotion separately, however. Do that here for the double-elite miles deal and here if you're flying in those six cities.

American AAdvantage: Double Elite Miles. Everywhere. Until January 31.
Given American's bankruptcy, this shouldn't surprise you. Desperate to hold on to flyers, the airline is offering double elite qualifying miles (EQMs) on any American or American Eagle flight until January 31. That means you'll have a chance to top off or improve your elite status in 2012 for any flights you have left this year and get a month of double EQM credit in January for the 2013 membership year. The only restriction? You must register before you fly. (Do it here.) Better news: Any flights you've already booked do qualify so long as you register before you fly. Best news of all: If you've received a geography-specific double-EQM offer, this systemwide deal is "stackable," which means they both can be used together to bulk up your AAdvantage balance.

Marriott Rewards: 2,000 Miles Per Stay for Four Months
If you're into frequent flyer miles and don't care much about frequent guest points, Marriott Rewards has just the promotion for you: 2,000 bonus miles per stay between January 1 and April 30. You can collect the miles in any of more than two dozen airline programs, including Delta SkyMiles, United MileagePlus and US Airways Dividend Miles. You have to register in advance, of course, and choose miles as your designated earnings preference. The bonus miles kick in with the second stay and you can earn as many as 50,000 miles during the promotion period. Information: the MegaMiles page.

Wyndham Rewards: Stay Twice, Get a Free Night (Sorta)
If you're a player in Wyndham Rewards, the frequent guest plan of that strange grab bag of hotels with about a dozen separate brands, you will be interested in this promotion: 6,500 bonus points for each pair of stays you complete by February 1. Wyndham is pitching the deal as two stays equaling a free night, but those 6,500 points will only get you a "tier one" night--and I'm not sure frequent travelers want to stay in the group's tier one hotels. So proceed with appropriate caution. Wyndham also offers 1,000 bonus points when you book through Wyndham's proprietary Web site addresses. Registration is required and not all of Wyndham's properties around the globe are participating. Information: the Gift Me page.

HOTEL BARGAINS THAT MERIT YOUR ATTENTION
Asia: Up to 50 Percent Off Starwood Hotels in the First Quarter
Starwood hotels and resorts in Asia aren't participating in the chain's first-quarter points promotion, but they do have an offer on the table: Up to 50 percent off standard rates on stays until March 31. The discount has its drawbacks--reservations must be prepaid and cannot be changed or refunded--but the deals are available at virtually all of the chain's properties in the Asia-Pacific region. One other fillip: Reservations must be booked by January 31. Information: the Red Hot Deals page.

Hilton: The Annual Weekend Sale Offers Less Off and Fewer Bonus Points
For the last few years, Hilton hotels around the world have slashed weekend rates for the entire year--if you book in January and pay when you make your reservation. This year is no exception, although the Any Weekend, Anywhere Sale isn't quite as compelling as in the past. This year, the best deal is 33 percent off going rates (it has been as much as 50 percent off) and a bonus of 1,000 Hilton HHonors points for two-night stays (compared to double points on all stays in the past). Specifically, the deal is 20-33 percent off weekend stays at Hiltons in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. It's 25-33 percent off at Hiltons in the Asia Pacific region. And it's 20-25 percent in North and South America. The deal requires a two-night stay, bookings by January 31 and full payment at the time of reservation. Information: the Save Up to 33% page.

Swissotel: A Winter White Sale Like They Used to Have
Hotel groups are now so big and so diverse (and so loaded down with fractious property owners) that major systemwide sales are much harder to come by than in years past. But Swissotel, which is still small, has been able to cobble together a winter "white" sale like the old days. This year's offer: 20 percent off the chain's best available rates for bookings before February 5. A two-day minimum stay is required and reservations are nonrefundable. Information: the Seasonal Saver page.

San Francisco Airport: Good, Cheap Rooms and Free Parking, Too
All Bay Area flyers have little tricks for negotiating traffic to San Francisco International Airport. If you're one of those who drive you own car, you might want to at least consider the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport's Park, Stay 'n Fly package. Room rates start at $129 a night and include shuttle service to/from your SFO terminal and as many as ten days of parking in the hotel's covered lot. That's a nifty deal when you consider walk-up rates at the hotel usually start at $169 a night and the cheapest on-airport parking (in the long-term lot) will ding you for $15 a day. The deal is valid through March 12. Information: the Special Offers page.

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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 thereís 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. Donít 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 © 2012 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2012 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.