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THE BIG BARGAIN FOR MARCH 22 TO 31, 2012
AirTran: The Return of the Monthly Sale, Now Scaled Down
For years, AirTran Airways would roll out a monthly fare sale that was completely predictable. It cut some prices as low as $39 one-way, was available on the lightest travel days (Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday) and required a 10-day advance purchase. The sale disappeared the moment that Southwest Airlines bought up the carrier, but now AirTran has revived a version of the venerable offer. The prices are higher now (one-way fares start at $68) and the travel days are reduced (Tuesdays and Wednesdays). Regrettably, the highest-priced sale fares, once capped at around $139, have soared well above $200. Blackout dates are more stringent, too. The 10-day advance purchase remains and this sale's travel window is open until June 27 when you buy tickets by March 29. Information: the AirTran sale fares page. You might also surf over to Southwest.com Special Offers page for a nearly identical sale on its routes.

THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE TRAVEL BARGAINS
SAS: A Nordic Summer Sale in Business Class, Just Not as Good as Last Month
Rising fuel costs are causing real damage to the summer-sale fare structure as evidenced by SAS' new, higher prices for a business-class seat. Fares to the Nordic countries, which were stunningly good last month, are now just notably good bargains. It's also an object lesson to not hesitate because great deals up front are becoming an endangered species. The business-class sale runs from June 1 to September 3. From Newark, Washington/Dulles or Chicago, the roundtrip fare (including taxes and fees) is $2,419 to Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki or Oslo. If you want to use SAS' premium economy class, the fare is $1,619 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. 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've already discussed this year, prices are up substantially from last summer. In fact, prices have risen by around $100 in the last few weeks. And if you're traveling from the West Coast, fares are around $150 higher, a sure sign the price bumps are due to higher fuel costs. The cheapest price seems to be $2,311 roundtrip between New York and Copenhagen. That includes all of the taxes and fees. Sample roundtrip fares from other Lufthansa gateways: $2,629 from Boston to Brussels; $2,790 from Chicago to Munich; $3,400 from Los Angeles to Frankfurt; and $3,509 from San Francisco to Paris. Information: the Great Summer Business Class page.

AIRLINE BARGAINS THAT MERIT YOUR ATTENTION
Cathay Pacific: Lots of Flights--and Suddenly Lots of Up Front Bargains, Too
Let's just say that Cathay Pacific isn't the most aggressive discounter in the skies. But the well-regarded carrier based in Hong Kong has added a raft of seats to the United States in recent years, including its newish gateway at Chicago/O'Hare. That means the occasional sale on its business-class seats. From the aforementioned O'Hare, roundtrip business-class seats are now selling for as little as $6,344 roundtrip including all taxes and fees. Connecting flights to other destinations in China are selling for about $500 more. From Los Angles, Cathay is selling business class for as little as $6,194 roundtrip. There are also discounts on its San Francisco and New York/JFK flights. The other good news? The advance purchase is gentle (14 days), the minimum-stay restrictions are nonexistent and the fares will earn you either American AAdvantage or Asia miles. Best of all, the prices seem to be in effect until the end of the year. Information: The Cathay Pacific home page.

Air New Zealand: Fall Is Coming, So Fares and Restrictions Fall, Too
As the peak season winds down Down Under, Air New Zealand is cutting its early-fall fares up front. That's no surprise. But what is surprising are the limited restrictions: a 3-day advance purchase and 3-day minimum stay for the best price. And that best is pretty attractive: $6,088 roundtrip (including all taxes and fees) between Los Angeles and Auckland. It's just $100 roundtrip more to Wellington, $170 more to Christchurch and $6,348 to Queenstown. The travel window is open until May 31 when you purchase tickets by March 27. Information: the Discount Business Premier 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.

HOTEL FREQUENT-GUEST PROMOTIONS TO CONSIDER
Choice Hotels: Stay Twice in The Next 60 Days, Get a Free Night
Hyatt Gold Passport made "Faster Free Nights"--i.e. stay twice, get a free stay--famous, but it hasn't offered the wildly popular promotion much since Hyatt added lower-priced properties. But other chains have dabbled in the idea, the latest being Choice Hotels, the gigantic group of economy properties such as Comfort, Quality, Clarion and EconoLodge. Choice's spin is this: If you complete two separate stays between March 8 and May 8, you'll earn enough Choice Privileges points (8,000) for a free night at 1,500 of its lower-tier properties. Considering Choice has about 6,000 properties, the payoff is limited. Still, it's better than a poke in the eye, right? Registration is required and the promotion is open only to travelers based in the United States and Canada. Information: the Earn One Night Free 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.

Chase: 60,000 Bonus Points When You Take a Priority Club Card
Chase is a travel affinity card powerhouse, issuing the credit cards for United, Southwest, Marriott, Hyatt, British Airways and several other firms. And it frequently pumps up interest in the cards with massive "acquisition bonuses" that make savvy travelers sit up and take notice. (Not to mention apply for the card.) Latest to get the big-bonus treatment: the Priority Club Rewards Select Visa. Chase is currently offering 60,000 points the first time you use the card. That's the equivalent of four free nights in some Holiday Inn and most Holiday Inn Express properties. The card itself also isn't bad on a continuing basis: no foreign-exchange fees; five points on charges at Priority Pass hotels; two points on gas, grocery and dining charges; gold priority status; a 10 percent rebate on points claimed; and no annual fee for the first year. Information: the Immerse yourself 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.

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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.