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THE BIG BARGAIN FOR FEBRUARY 23 - MARCH 8
American Airlines: An Odd Miami Upfront Sale Is Better Than Nothing
American Airlines has a hammerlock on service out of Miami, making the sales rare and the bargains limited. So don't look askance at the business-class bargains that do come down the pike from time to time. The carrier's current upfront sale from Miami is valid for travel between March 7 and June 9 if you purchase your seats by February 28. But beware: There are blackout dates and varying minimum-stay rules depending on the destination, so you'll have to hunt and peck for what you need. Including all taxes and fees, sample prices include: $424 each way to Guatemala City; $476 to Quito; $1,431 to Lisbon; $1,538 to Paris and $478 to La Paz. Information: the Miami page.

THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE TRAVEL BARGAINS
Chase: 50,000 Bonus Points for Taking the Sapphire Preferred Card
Chase rolled out the Sapphire Preferred Card several years ago and everyone loved the card's look and feel, which eschews corny metal coloring and doesn't sport a credit card logo on the front. Opinion was divided on the Chevy Chase commercials used to introduce the card. But all that's in the past as Chase has two different ways to promote the card. The first: a 50,000-point Ultimate Rewards bonus if you spend $3,000 during the first three months. The second: an upgraded Ultimate Rewards perk that offers you 1-to-1 transfers to the frequent-guest programs of United, Marriott, Hyatt and several other travel partners in the Chase stable. The card has other benefits as well: no foreign exchange fee, double points on all travel spending and a 7 percent yearly bonus on points earned. Not bad for a $95 annual fee, which Chase will waive for the first year. Information: the Card of a Different Color page.

Sheraton: 1,000 Bonus SPG Points on Club Level Stays
Sheraton continues to insist that it has upgraded its Club Level rooms, lounges, products and services to the tune of $100 million. Sharp-eyed guests have been hard-pressed to find much difference, but there are, at least, more Sheratons with more Club Levels in more cities worldwide. To induce visitors to spring for the upgraded accommodations (which come with lounge access, continental breakfast and afternoon snacks), Sheraton is now offering 1,000 bonus Starwood Preferred Guest points for each Club Level stay through May 31. You must use an American Express card to score the bonus, not to mention be prepared for the $75-a-night average premium Club Level rooms command. Be sure to use promotion code CL1 and book the DAILYFS or SICLUB rate. Information: the 1,000 more reasons page.

OTHER TRAVEL BARGAINS THAT MERIT YOUR ATTENTION
LAN: Up Front Deals Big and Small Because Beggars Can't Be Choosers
The hardest "get" in travel these days is a business-class deal to almost anywhere in South America. Relatively high demand and comparatively low supply mean that the bargains are very hard to come by. Which makes the grab bag sale from LAN, the big player in Latin America, worth noting. The prices are all over the map and purchase dates and restrictions vary from route to route, but you may find some gems in with the regularly priced dross. Even the travel windows are distinct based on the route. Sample business-class prices: $949 roundtrip from New York to Quito; $1,125 from Miami to Guayaquil; $1,999 from Los Angeles to Lima; and $3,499 from San Francisco to Santiago, Chile. Those prices include all of the taxes and fees. The only other common factor seems to be that the fare sales are bookable in "I" class. Information: the Fly Premium Business page.

Aer Lingus: An April Business-Class Sale at Great Prices With Few Restrictions
The other carriers have finished with their Easter/Passover sales, but Aer Lingus has just unleashed its promotion. And it's terrific because the prices are good and the restrictions seem nonexistent. There's no minimum or Saturday-night stay, for example. The only caveat: You must purchase seats by March 8 and the travel window is limited to April 1 to April 18. All-in prices are $1,972 roundtrip (New York or Boston to Shannon); $2,434 (New York-Dublin); $2,648 (Boston-Dublin) and $2,834 (Chicago-Dublin). Information: The Business Class Spring Sale page.

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.

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.

THE SUMMER BUSINESS-CLASS SALES TO EUROPE
Airlines: Good News and Bad About Spring/Summer Business-Class Sales
The good news? Many airlines are out with 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 summer business-class sale 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.

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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.