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THE BIG BARGAIN FOR FEBRUARY 9 TO 23, 2012
Air France: April in Paris, in Business Class, Ignore the Strikes
Air France is taking it on the chin this week due to a strike that has grounded nearly half its flights. But that hasn't stopped it from posting (belatedly) an Easter business-class sale. So if you've always wanted to spend April in Paris (really, that song is misleading, 'cause it's cold and rainy), here's your chance. If you can depart from April 1 to April 13 and return between April 7 and April 18, prices in business are as low as $2,680 roundtrip from New York. That does include all of the taxes and fees. It's just $20 more from Boston or Washington and around $3,300 roundtrip from Air France's West Coast destinations. If you prefer to use Paris (and annoying CDG) as a gateway to Europe, roundtrip fares are as low as $2,420. The caveat: You must hurry, since Air France says tickets must be purchased by the end of the day on February 13. Information: the Easter Business Class Sale page.

THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE TRAVEL BARGAINS
Malaysia Airlines: Tokyo, Really Cheap, You Pick Your Class ...
Malaysia Airlines' nearly secret Los Angeles-Tokyo/Narita route needs constant promotion to keep it at the top of the business traveler's mind. But failing promotion, which Malaysia Airlines never does, the solution is to cut fares. That they are doing. If you can handle a transpacific coach ride, the current price from LAX to Narita is as little as $760 roundtrip, including all taxes and fees. If you're saner and want to go business class, the price is an attractive $3,441 roundtrip. The travel window is wide--March 25 to May 31--if you purchase your seats by March 31. Information: The Deals of the Day page.

Taj Hotels: A Third Night Free in New York, Boston and San Francisco
Taj Hotels, the lodging division of the huge Indian conglomerate Tata, has snapped up three iconic U.S. properties: The Pierre in New York, Campton Place in San Francisco and the original Ritz-Carlton hotel, which has been renamed the Taj Boston. Taj hasn't been great at promoting its U.S. presence, so you'll have to dig a little for its Stay a Bit Longer deal. It's worth it, though. The promotion offers a third night free for every two paid nights. The deal lasts through April 8. You can find details (and book the offer) at the Web sites of The Pierre, the Taj Boston and Campton Place.

Air New Zealand: A Pre-Olympics Business-Class Sale to London
Look at it this way: No one sane will want to be in London for the Olympics, so Air New Zealand's business-class sale from Los Angeles makes eminent sense. If you're interested in traveling between June 29 and July 19, Air New Zealand is selling business-class seats between LAX and London/Heathrow for just $3,115 roundtrip. The price not only includes all fees and taxes, but the fare will accrue frequent flyer miles, too. The only catch: You must buy tickets by February 29. Information: the Business Class Special Offer page.

THE SPRING AND SUMMER BUSINESS-CLASS SALES
Airlines: Good News and Bad About Spring/Summer Business-Class Sales
The good news? Many airlines are out with Easter and Passover and summer business-class fares to Europe. The bad news? Fares are up again--up a substantial amount, in fact--and the deals are no longer no-brainer purchases. The prices are still fairly categorized as deep discounts, but not so low that you won't have to think about them before committing. And especially for the summer fares, they aren't so low that they are guaranteed to be the cheapest prices you'll see. Weak bookings might lead to some further reductions in coming weeks.
    The Easter/Passover sale is valid for departures between April 1 and April 13 and you can return between April 7 and April 18. You have until February 13 to buy, but the 60-day advance purchase requirement means you should book right away if you want the full range of departure dates. There's a Saturday-night stay and $400 change fee on the nonrefundable fares, which are standard for these types of fares. The booking class is Z. Prices start around $2,518 roundtrip (New York-Paris) inclusive of all taxes and fees. Other samples: $2,529 (New York-Munich) and $2,986 (Chicago-Dusseldorf). As usual, the sale was launched by the Star Alliance carriers, but has been matched by most SkyTeam and Oneworld carriers, too. The only public notices of the sale that I've seen so far appear on the Lufthansa and Swiss Web sites.
    The summer business-class sale is even further under the pricing radar and I haven't seen any airline put up a promotional page. The travel period this year is predictable: depart between June 29 and September 3. The purchase-by date, May 31, is the same as last year. You've got the standard $400 change fee, too. And, as usual, the Z-class fares seem to have originated with United and the Star Alliance, but they've already been matched by most competitors. Sample roundtrip prices, which include taxes and fees: $2,327 (Newark-Brussels); $2,359 (New York/JFK-Frankfurt); $2,512 (Chicago-Frankfurt); $2,823 (Chicago-Rome); and $3,103 (Los Angeles-Paris). Again this year, flights to the usually pricey Scandinavia seem to be the notable biggest bargain. I've seen fares as low as $2,345 roundtrip (Newark-Oslo) and $2,260 (Newark-Copenhagen). It looks like all gateways and all destinations between the United States and Europe are on sale, but a warning: Fares seem to be higher in August than in July and there are some days when prices soar above $4,000 roundtrip from the East Coast.
    The Nordic Summer Sale is absolutely worth noting here. Led by SAS, the business-class sale has a wider travel window (June 15-September 3) and there doesn't seem to be the May 31 end date for purchases. Prices are comparatively fantastic, too. From Newark, Washington/Dulles or Chicago, the roundtrip fare (including taxes and fees) is just $2,259 to Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki or Oslo. If you want to use SAS' premium economy class, the fare is $1,599 roundtrip. Information: the SAS Summer Sale page.

Lufthansa: At Least We'll Detail Our Summer Business-Class Sale
It's still a mystery why the airlines are hiding their summer business-class sales to Europe under a proverbial rock, but at least now Lufthansa has posted a Web page detailing its offer. As we divined (see above), the departure period is June 29 to September 3 and you must buy tickets by May 31 with a 60-day advance purchase. But this year, Lufthansa disclosed, the return window is wide: from July 1 to December 3. In previous years, you usually were required to wrap up your travels by mid-September. Unfortunately, as we detailed below, prices are up substantially from last summer. The cheapest price seems to be $2,248 roundtrip between New York and Brussels. That includes all of the taxes and fees. Sample roundtrip fares from other Lufthansa gateways: $2,565 from Boston/Logan to Geneva; $2,629 from Chicago to Munich; $3,239 from Los Angeles to Frankfurt; and $3,348 from San Francisco to Paris. Information: the Great Summer Business Class page.

FIRST-QUARTER HOTEL POINTS PROMOTIONS TO CONSIDER
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.
    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.

Club Carlson: Triple Points Per Stay, But a Small Window of Opportunity
Give Club Carlson credit: Its first-quarter promotion of triple points for stays at Radisson, Country Inns, Park Plaza and Park Inn hotels is the richest of all this year's promotions so far. But nothing comes easy in business travel these days, so you'll have to accept that the trade-off for triple points is a truncated window of opportunity. Club Carlson's promotion ends on March 16 and didn't start until January 10. Which means triple points, but only for a two-month "quarter." And don't forget to register to earn the bounty.

Ritz-Carlton: Stay Twice, Get a Free Night. And We Won't Sniff Too Much.
Back in the day when Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons were actually somewhat exclusive, they used to sniff at discounting and promotions. But Ritz-Carlton is part of Marriott now and even has a frequent-guest program. So that means Ritz is discounting and promoting--and not sniffing too much. The current Ritz-Carlton promotion, via the Ritz-Carlton Rewards plan, is fairly simple: Complete two stays at a Ritz property between February 1 and April 15 and you'll receive a free night at one of its Tier 1-3 hotels. (That includes the vast majority of Ritz hotels and resorts, by the way.) A few hotels aren't playing in the promotion--notably Singapore and Montreal--but, otherwise, all you need do is register by March 1. You can earn as many as two free nights during the promotion. Information: the Twice the Experience page.

Priority Club Rewards: Double Points or Double Miles for Three Months
The first-quarter hotel bonus promotions have been lackluster and Priority Club Rewards, the frequency program of the InterContinental chain, won't be breaking away from the pack with its offer. From January 23 to April 30, the chain is offering double Priority Club points or double airline miles for each stay. You have to choose either/or when you register. (You can do that here.) And if you're a regular Priority Club player, you'll recognize this promotion: It was the same one that the chain used last summer. Information: the 2X More page.

Hyatt Gold Passport: The More You Stay, the More Bonuses You Earn
Whenever Hyatt doesn't unveil one of its legendary "faster free nights" promotions, Gold Passport members are going to grumble. So you probably won't be thrilled about Hyatt's first promotion of 2012, either. It's a tiered bonus scheme that rewards you with more bonus points the more frequently you stay and adds additional points if you're a Hyatt Card holder. The promotion runs from February 1 through April 30 and it works like this: Stay four nights and receive 4,000 bonus points. Stay eight nights and you'll get a total of 12,000 bonus points. Twelve nights get you 24,000 bonus points and 16 nights of stays get you 44,000 bonus points. You'll also receive 25 percent more points in each of the four tiers if you have a Hyatt Card. Register here

Best Western Rewards: Three Winter Stays Earn a Free Spring Night
Best Western Rewards is out with its first-quarter promotion and it's fairly rich compared to other hotel frequent-stay programs (see below). The BW offer: Complete three stays between February 6 and April 8 and you'll earn a voucher for a free night that can be redeemed until June 30. You must register for the promotion, of course, and you can do that here.

YOU WANT MILES AND POINTS? THEY GOT 'EM...
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.

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.

OTHER TRAVEL BARGAINS THAT MERIT YOUR ATTENTION
Korean Air: LAX-to-Tokyo for Less Than $900 Roundtrip in February
Korean Air has been trying to burnish its image these days--if nothing else, those television commercials are stylish--but it still needs to fill its transpacific flights with some substantial discounts. If you can handle a coach ride between Los Angeles and Tokyo, Korean is pitching a terrific price: Just $873 roundtrip including all taxes and fees for midweek travel. Flights on Friday or Saturday will cost an extra $100. The caveat? The fare is only good for departures this month. But there are no blackout dates and just a four-day minimum stay. Return travel is permitted for three months after the date of departure. Information: the Hot Deal page.

car Avis: Rent Twice, Earn a Free Day. Repeat Until Summer.
Just as National Car Rental is wrapping up its much-loved annual OneTwoFree promotion, which launched in August and ends on January 31, Avis Rent a Car is finally getting around to matching. But Avis, which calls its promotion Free to Get Away, has added a nice fillip: You can earn a free rental day after two rentals until June 30. Of course, there is a cap: You can only earn six free rental days during the long promotion. And don't be thinking about claiming your free days in New York, the nation's costliest rental market. Your paid rentals in New York count in the promotion, but the free days you earn cannot be used at New York's airports or any rental station in the New York Metro area. Other than that, the promotion is straightforward and you'll receive a certificate for a free night after every pair of two-day paid rentals you complete. All you have to do is register, which you can do 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 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.