HOME    SEND JOE AN E-MAIL    PRINT   2012 COLUMNS   THE DEALS ARCHIVES   SEARCH THE SITE
THE BIG BARGAIN FOR AUGUST 9 TO 23, 2012
Alitalia: Up Front for the Holidays and a Sconto Grosso, Too
If you've been thinking of a Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year's jaunt to Italy, Alitalia is happy to help with a sconto grosso (big discount) on up front fares. And with Delta, United and American slashing flights to Italy this winter, Alitalia may be your only logical option, too. Business-class fares start as low as $1,674 roundtrip (New York to Milan for Thanksgiving) and include $2,186 for Boston to Rome and $2,305 for New York to Palermo. Generally speaking, you'll find the Thanksgiving prices (travel November 18-23 outbound and November 23-28 return) about $500 cheaper than the Christmas/New Year period (depart December 17-January 4 and return December 25-January 8). By the way, the Italian word for turkey is tacchino in case you're going for Thanksgiving, which isn't a cosa grande (big thing) in Italy. Information: the Cheap Flights page.

THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE TRAVEL BARGAINS
SAS: We Really, Really, Really Will Launch SFO Flights This Time
SAS says that it'll launch nonstop flights between San Francisco and its Copenhagen hub on April 8. Of course, you have the right to be skeptical. Twice before in the last decade SAS has announced the nonstop route and then abandoned it even before the service began. But SAS says it really, really, really means it this time and has even announced some discount fares to go with it. Besides a $797 roundtrip on the SFO-CPH nonstop itself, it is also charging the same fare for onward service to Oslo, Stockholm and Helsinki. A few bucks more will get you elsewhere in Scandinavia. If you want to try the San Francisco-Copenhagen run as the start of an onward itinerary to elsewhere in Europe, prices start as low as $847 roundtrip to Warsaw and $897 to Germany destinations and the Baltic capitals of Riga, Tallinn and Vilnius. The fares are valid for weekday departures between April 8 and June 15 with returns completed by June 30. Weekend departures carry a surcharge of $50. But hurry: Tickets must be purchased by August 13. Information: the San Francisco Introductory Offer page.

American Express: 30,000-Point Bonus for the Starwood Preferred Guest Card
Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints are generally considered the highest-value currency in the frequency universe. Which is what makes the latest "acquisition bonus" from American Express so rich. Amex will give you 30,000 Starpoints if you take the Starwood Preferred Guest card. The bonus breaks down this way: 10,000 points after your first purchase and 20,000 more points after spending $5,000 in the first six months. And you can do all this bonus hunting for free since Amex waives the $65 annual fee in the first year. The 30,000-point bonus offer is available for applications made before September 4. Information: the Starwood Preferred Guest page.

BUSINESS-CLASS DEALS THAT MERIT YOUR ATTENTION
London: There Are Empty Seats Up Front, Too
The scandal over the empty seats at Olympic venues and events that are officially "sold out" has an in-flight corollary: Airlines are having trouble moving premium-class seats to London for the rest of the summer. Virgin Atlantic already has a sale up that covers its Upper Class flights into Heathrow until September 3. Most of the lowest fares only require a 14-day advance purchase and midweek travel. Sample prices: $1,238 from Boston; $1,284 each way from New York or Newark; $1,309 from Washington/Dulles; $1,397 from Chicago; and $1,670 from San Francisco. Separately, Air New Zealand is discounting even during the games. It's selling a $3,172 business-class roundtrip on its LAX-London nonstop route during August. Information: the Virgin Atlantic Upper Class page and the Air New Zealand Business Class Special Offer page.

Europe: Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year Business-Class Sales Begin
It may be a sign of the slack premium-class traffic on transatlantic flights this year, but some carriers have already loaded their business-class Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year sales. And the prices seem quite good. For the Thanksgiving period, for example, I've already found these fares: $1,544 roundtrip for Newark-London; $1,702 for New York/Kennedy-Paris/CDG; $1,910 for Washington/Dulles-Frankfurt; $2,005 for Chicago-Amsterdam; and $2,529 for Los Angeles-Rome. The Thanksgiving travel period is between November 18 and 25 for outbound flights and November 23 and 28 for returns. Fares for the Christmas/New Year period are about $300-$400 roundtrip above the Thanksgiving tariffs. The travel period is December 17 to January 4 for outbound flights and December 25 and January 8 for returns. So who's got the fares? As far as I can tell, deep-discount holiday prices are available on some routes operated by Delta, Alitalia, Lufthansa, KLM and Virgin Atlantic. So far, however, only Virgin Atlantic is publicly acknowledging its prices on a promotional page (click here). What's it all mean? If you're looking for a Europe holiday at the end of the year, start hunting right now. Other carriers will surely match in a matter of days and that will add inventory, of course. But with so many deep capacity cuts coming on what the airline industry calls the "winter schedule" that begins on the last weekend of October, I wouldn't wait. Let the scavenger hunt begin.

OpenSkies: Paris When It Doesn't Sizzle at a Sizzling Price in 'Almost' C
OpenSkies, now celebrating the beginning of its fifth year in the skies, plugs away on the Newark-Paris/Orly route thanks to the support from its parent, British Airways. And while it isn't the carrier it once was--the addition of 33 coach seats forced the carrier to reduce seat pitch in the renamed Prem Plus class to 47 inches--OpenSkies is still discounting heavily on what can be called its "almost business class" service. The fall and winter price is as low as $1,571 roundtrip including all taxes and fees. Tickets at that price are available for midweek travel from October 29 to December 13 and December 25 to March 25. A Saturday-night stay and 14-day advance purchase are required. And Prem Plus remains a fine option. The 47 inches of legroom are far more than you're going to get on any premium economy service, the meals are pretty good and, because OpenSkies uses Boeing 757 aircraft, the chairs are configured 2x2. In other words, OpenSkies remains a sizzling deal for flights to Paris when it doesn't sizzle. Information: the Best Choice page.

Malaysia Airlines: LAX to Tokyo, Cheap Up Front
The Japanese market is rebounding after last year's devastating earthquake, but you can still find bargains up front. Submitted for your approval: Malaysia Airlines' $4,609 all-in roundtrip price in business class from Los Angeles to Narita Airport in Tokyo. The travel window at that price stays open until November 30. The late summer and fall price is almost $2,500 less than Malaysia is usually charges on the route. Another perk: No minimum is stay required. Information: The Deals of the Day page.

HOTEL FREQUENT-GUEST PROMOTIONS TO CONSIDER
Wyndham Rewards: Quadruple Points or Airline Miles Until Mid-September
Wyndham Rewards, the sprawling frequent stay program that covers Wyndham-branded properties and a slew of lower-priced hotels and motels, is offering a sweet late summer promotion. Starting with your second stay at a participating property, you'll receive quadruple points or airline miles. The promotion lasts until September 13 and you can receive quadruple points on as many as four qualifying stays. Advance registration is required, of course. Information: the Summer is 4x Sweeter page.

Hilton HHonors: Double or Triple Miles for Third-Quarter Stays, But...
Hilton is famous for giving with one metaphoric hand and taking away with the other. So while its third-quarter promotion--double points for Monday-Thursday stays, triple points on weekends--is quite nice, there is a big caveat. There is a gigantic list of hotels that aren't offering the promotion, including virtually all of the London properties and hundreds throughout the United States. At hotels that are participating, the offer runs from July 1 through September 30 when you register in advance. You can register here and see the list of opt-outs here.

Best Western: Three Stays Through Mid-August Earn a Free Night
Simplicity is good and the latest promotion from Best Western hotels is nice and simple: Stay three separate times at Best Western properties before August 19 and you'll earn a voucher for a free night's stay that can be used until January 31. The only real condition: You have to register to play in the promotion.

Priority Club: 20,000 Bonus Points for Three Months of Stays
Priority Club Rewards, the frequency program that covers the InterContinental Family of hotels, is out with its summer promotion. It is offering 1,000 bonus points a night between June 1 and September 3. You can claim the bonus points at any of Priority Club's properties, including Holiday Inn Express, Hotel Indigo, Crowne Plaza and the Candlewood and Staybridge Suites chains. Advance registration is required. Information: the Earn 1,000 Points Every Night page.

Choice Hotels: Two Late Spring and Early Summer Stays Earn a $50 Gift Card
Choice Hotels, that chaotic collection of lower-priced brands, is out with a late spring and early summer promotion: Every two stays earn enough Choice Privileges points for a $50 gift card. The promotional period runs until August 15 and is valid if you book at ChoiceHotels.com or via its 800-4CHOICE phone center. Among the cards you can claim are those from select gas stations and home-improvement chains, Macy's, Sears or a few dining chains. You must register in advance, of course, and you can do it here.

Hyatt Gold Passport: Earn Up to 24,500 Airline Credits Instead of Points
Hyatt Gold Passport's summertime promotion suggests that you might want airline credits instead of Gold Passport points. If you do, then you can choose one of a baker's dozen of U.S. and international carriers on which to earn upwards of 24,500 miles, points or kilometers. Hyatt's general rules work like this: For the second and third stays between May 1 and August 31, you'll earn four times the standard amount of airline credits that Hyatt offers. On stays four through eleven, you'll earn five times the normal amount of airline credits. You can only choose one airline to earn with during the promotion. You must register your choice of carrier in advance and give your frequent flyer number at each check-in. Among the participating airlines are American, Delta, Southwest and United as well as British Airways, Air France and Lufthansa. More information and the registration process are at the Make Your Next Stay 5X More Rewarding page.

THE BEST CURRENT TRAVEL DEALS AND DISCOUNTS
InterContinental Hotels: Get $75 Back If You Do a Lot of Paperwork
InterContinental is offering a $75 gift card whenever you stay two consecutive weekend nights before September 3, but the 4,500-hotel chain is going to make you work to get it. First, you have to register for the promotion. Then you have to book the stay. Then download a rebate form from IHG's Web site. Then mail the form along with two other pieces of paper (your bill and your confirmation page) somewhere. Finally, six to eight weeks later, IHG will send a $75 MasterCard-branded gift card. If all that labor appeals to you and you're planning an InterContinental stay before Labor Day, surf here for all of the details.

Hilton HHonors: The Price of Its Best Elite Level Is Now Just $95 a Year
Hilton continues to make a hash of its HHonors program by doing hidden devaluations and making unannounced changes to its terms and conditions. Hilton's latest assault has been on its top, or Diamond Level, HHonors guests. Diamonds are no longer offered suite upgrades and can no longer get a "diamond force," jargon for Hilton clearing award rooms when the freebie inventory is officially unavailable. That makes the Diamond Level hardly better than HHonors Gold, which normally requires 16 stays or 36 nights a year. Gold offers free Internet, room upgrades and continental breakfast. It's arguably Hilton's only decent elite level now. And guess what: You don't even have to stay at Hilton even once to achieve its best HHonors level. A new credit card from Citibank offers Gold Level HHonors status and the annual fee is just $95 a year. So here's the best lodging strategy ever: Take the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Visa, pay the $95 annual fee, get Gold Level--and then stay at Marriott, Starwood, Hyatt or other hotels so you can earn elite status there, too. Book a Hilton Family property only when there are no other options. You'll still get Gold Level treatment and all of your other paid stays will be earning elite status elsewhere. Information: the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card page.

Avis: 3,000 Miles for a One-Day Rental and 5,000 Miles for Three-Day Rental
Car rentals stopped being a useful source of substantial airline bonus miles years ago, but it's hard to ignore the richness of this new offer from Avis: 3,000 American AAdvantage miles for a one-day rental and 5,000 miles for a three-day rental. The booking window is short--only until August 31--but 3,000 miles for a one-day rental is certainly nothing to ignore. The promo code is MUAA035 and it is twinned with a 35 percent off offer, but that may not be your best Avis price. It may be better to simply use the code with any discount you can arrange with Avis. A less impressive deal for AAdvantage miles is also available at Budget, Avis' sister rental firm. Information: the Avis Budget page at AA.com.

American AAdvantage: Up to 30,000 Miles for Enduring a Stupid Movie Promo
American is offering up to 30,000 bonus AAdvantage miles after Labor Day, but it is being extraordinarily excruciating about it. When you fly between September 4 and November 15, you'll receive 1,000 bonus miles for your first roundtrip, 3,000 for the second, 6,000 for the third, 9,000 for the fourth and 11,000 for the fifth. There is one catch we can explain: Qualifying roundtrips must be booked in the higher coach classes, which exclude the deep-discount N, O and Q categories. But here's where AA goes EE (extraordinarily excruciating): To qualify for the bonuses, you not only have to register, you also have to book your travel by September 15--and you must click through a stupid, interactive promotion for what I assume is the latest chapter of the Bourne motion-picture franchise. The promotion code is AABRN, but surf here to get through all the garbage.

British Airways: Age (or at Least an AARP Card) Has Its Privileges
Discounts for AARP members are fairly standard in the travel industry--at least on the ground. But AARP has also swung a deal with British Airways. The discount isn't an opaque "percent off" or "special price" promotion. It's a simple dollars-off deal on any fare you can find. As an AARP member, you'll receive $400 roundtrip off any first or business-class ticket. World Traveler Plus flyers receive $150 off roundtrips to Britain or $200 off a connecting ticket beyond London. There's even a deal for coach flyers: $75 roundtrip to Britain and $100 on connecting flights to Europe or beyond. Discounts are valid for travel until March 31, 2013, if you book by October 31. Information: the Save page.

Marriott: A Bundle of Bargains in Florida This Summer
More than two dozen Marriott Family hotels and resorts in Florida are offering a bundle of bargains this summer. Tampa properties are knocking 25 percent off going rates when you stay three or more nights. In Orlando and Jacksonville, the offer is free parking and free meals for the kids. Marriott properties in South Florida are offering as much as $50 in daily hotel credits. The deals are available until September 30 when you book by September 7. As always with these nebulous and omnibus discounts, make sure that there aren't cheaper rates or better value-added prices available. Information: the Suntastic Summer Savings page.

Hyatt: A Free Night, Free Breakfast and Late Checkout All Year
About 100 Hyatt Hotels have very quietly launched a promotion called Free Time that includes a clutch of nice perks: a free third night after a two-night stay, free breakfast for two each day of your stay and a 2 p.m. checkout. Better yet, the deal is available through the end of the year at the participating U.S., Caribbean and Canadian hotels. (A slightly different offer is available to guests of the other participating Hyatt hotels.) Some other nice bits: You have until November 30 to book and the appropriate rate (coded FRTIME) does not require pre-payment. As far as I can tell, Free Time rates seem to be pricing out about $25 a night higher than the standard tariff at most Hyatt properties. So that means you're paying about $50 for the "free" night and "free" breakfasts. That's probably as close to "free" as you're actually going to get in today's lodging environment. Information: the Free Night Into Free Time page.

HOME    E-MAIL JOE    PRINT   SEND MOBILE LINK    2012 COLUMNS   DEALS ARCHIVES   SEARCH
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.