Steals & Deals for January 21-31, 2016
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SINGAPORE AIRLINES: A Big Bargain on Two Big Seats to Frankfurt
Singapore Airlines doesn't appear on this page often because the carrier has a corporate aversion to discounting on its superlative premium classes. But every once in a while there is a window where Singapore decides to cut prices. Right now, for example, it's offering a great price on its "secret" flight between New York/Kennedy and Frankfurt. If you've ever wanted to sample the carrier's almost sinfully large business class seat-beds--they measure 35 inches across--now is the time. Two traveling together each pay only $1,999 roundtrip when they depart between February 1 and March 31. Returns are permitted until April 30. Tickets must be booked by January 31. Flights at the promotional price are available on Monday through Thursday with a one-month maximum stay. Information: the FARE DEAL page. This deal was updated on Friday, January 22, to reflect additional travel options and restrictions.
THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE BARGAINS
CATHAY PACIFIC: Sub-$700 Roundtrip Coach Fares to Hong Kong If You Fly Now
If you're not doing anything for the next few days, Cathay Pacific is offering blow-out fares on nonstops to Hong Kong from its San Francisco, New York/Kennedy and Chicago gateways. Prices are as low as $689 roundtrip from SFO and $764 from Chicago or JFK. The catch: You have to book and depart by January 31. But you can stay as long as six months and there's no minimum stay. The fare is limited to four departing flights (CX807 from Chicago, CX889 from New York and CX879 and CX893 from San Francisco), however. Information: the HONG KONG FLASH SALE page.
AMTRAK: Discounts Systemwide, But a $90 Roundtrip Gem From New York to Montreal
With travel in its annual winter slump--and traffic a bit lower than the usual seasonal lows--even Amtrak is cutting rates. Its promotional page is festooned with intriguing offers. But the one that catches the eye is a $90 roundtrip fare between New York/Penn (and some other nearby stops) and Montreal. The price is available on weekends (Thursday through Monday) for a maximum stay of five days. The travel window is ridiculously wide--until April 28--when you book by April 25. A three-day advance reservation is required and there are only two sets of blackout dates: around Valentine's Day (February 12 and 15) and Easter (March 24, 25 and 28). And with the U.S. dollar buying C$1.43, Montreal itself is a winter and early spring bargain of epic proportions. Information: the ABOARD THE ADIRONDACK page.
VIRGIN AMERICA: Double Elevate Points on Most Flights Until February 29
Virgin American's Elevate frequent flyer program is admittedly a niche play and only offers occasional redemption values. But if you're in the market for a flight in a Virgin market between now and February 29, Virgin is willing to sweeten the deals. You'll receive double points--approximately 10 for each dollar spent compared to the usual five points per dollar. Advance registration is required. Information: the DOUBLE DIP YOUR POINTS page.
CLUB CARLSON: Stay Twice, in Two Brands, Get a 5,000-Point Bonus
Club Carlson, the loyalty and frequency plan of Radisson and several other hotel brands, continues to struggle for visibility among top-tier lodging plans. To get you to pay attention, it'll give you a 5,000-point bonus when you complete stays at two separate Carlson brands by March 31. Besides the Radisson and Radisson Blu brands, Club Carlson also offers Country Inns and Suites, Park Plaza, Park Inn and, if you can find a hotel, the Quorvus Collection. The bonus is available only once and advance registration is required. Information: the BRANDS TO LOVE page.
HOTEL POINTS AND PRICE PROMOTIONS
HOTELS: We Want Your Business--Just Not Too Much--in the First Quarter
If you were hoping the hotel industry would lust after your business in the traditionally weak first quarter, you're going to be disappointed. The major chains' frequent-stay promotions are extremely dull, quite uninspired--and not particularly compelling enough to change your buying decisions. But here's what's on tap from several leading players for the first quarter.
Hilton HHonors is offering double points or double miles at any of its hotels worldwide between January 1 and April 30. Advance registration is required and you can do it here.
IHG Rewards Club members have a mass-customized offer. You'll have to log in and register here to see it. The so-called Accelerate promotion seems to top out at 50,000 points during the first quarter.
Starwood Preferred Guest is offering double SPG points if you stay two nights between January 11 and April 30. There's also a 250-point-per-night bonus if you stay in select properties in several destinations. Complete details and registration information is here. You must register by April 10.
HILTON: The Annual Weekend Sale Offers Less Off and No Bonus Points
For years, Hilton hotels around the world have slashed weekend rates for the entire year--if you booked in December or January and paid when you made your reservation. This year is no exception, although the Winter Sale isn't nearly as compelling as it once was. Rates used to be around 50 percent off. Now they are "up to 30 percent off" for most travelers or "up to 35 percent off" for Hilton HHonors members. The bonus HHonors points that were once part of the deal are gone, too. The terms and conditions are presented in a ridiculously confusing way, but it boils down to this: You must book by January 31 and pay at the time of booking. The sale putatively offers every weekend at every one of the 4,500+ hotels in the Hilton family, but expect a hefty dose of blackouts. Weekends mean Friday, Saturday and/or Sunday night in most of the world, but Thursday, Friday and/or Saturday in the Middle East and Africa. There are no refunds or changes permitted. Is the deal in its current form worth considering? Well, obviously, it's not as strong as the past and you are gambling on price as much as a year in advance. But if you have plans set in stone for weekends in 2016, this could be worth a tumble. Information: the WINTER SALE page.
HYATT: Long Weekend Discounts in France This Winter
Hyatt Hotels posted this promotion even before November's terrorist attack in Paris. Since it still isn't large in France--just six hotels, including three in the heart of Paris--it's hoping to bulk up occupancy during the slower winter season with an interesting discount. If you spend three weekend nights, you'll get a 30 percent break off the Hyatt Daily Rate. You must arrive on Thursday, Friday or Saturday, but the rate is extendable to Tuesday or Wednesday for longer stays. The promotion is valid between December 18 and March 14 when you book by March 7. One fly in the ointment: Rates require full prepayment at the time of booking. So check to make sure post-paid rates or discounts won't yield a better value. Information: the FRANCE WEEKEND OFFER page.
HYATT: 15 Percent Off on Dozens of Hotels for Months and Months
Hyatt has rolled out a targeted, but quite useful, sale that runs through March 31. If you're headed to Hawaii, Phoenix, San Diego or the District of Columbia, the chain's My Hyatt Rate promotion knocks 15 percent off standard prices. The only caveat: You must be a member of the Hyatt Gold Passport program. The sale covers five hotels and resorts in Hawaii; nine hotels in the Phoenix area; eight hotels and resorts in and around San Diego and five hotels in Washington. Information: the MY HYATT RATE page.
GLOBAL AIRLINE DEALS TO CONSIDER
KLM: Sure, Africa Is a Long Haul in Coach, But These Prices Are Insane
Deals to Africa are hard to come by. Deals in business class to Africa are even rarer. But along comes KLM with simply insane pricing. How about San Francisco to Cairo for as little as $666 roundtrip? Or New York to Algiers for $823 roundtrip. Or Los Angeles to Nairobi for $876 roundtrip? Or even Boston to Johannesburg for as little as $774 roundtrip. The prices aren't come-ons, either. KLM has a handy-dandy bar graph showing you when the fares are available between now and August and there seems to be substantial availability. Almost all of the itineraries include a stop in Amsterdam, but that shouldn't surprise you. Restrictions are minimal, too, requiring only a 7-day and Saturday-night stay. Information: the EXPLORE AFRICA TODAY page.
LOT POLISH: Sub-$2,000 Business Class Fares to Europe All Summer
The once-popular summer business class sale, made famous first by Continental Airlines and later adopted by United and the Lufthansa Group of carriers, has become more memory than marketable in recent years. But LOT Polish, a Star Alliance carrier that never really played in the annual bazaar in previous years, is offering sub-$2,000 roundtrip business class fares all summer. The routes are over LOT's hub in Warsaw--thankfully, it's compact and efficient--and LOT uses Boeing 787 Dreamliners on the transatlantic legs. Sample fares: From Chicago, $1,950 roundtrip to Barcelona and $1,960 to Venice; and from New York/JFK, $1,975 to Athens and $1,998 to Vienna. The fares are available most of July and August in Z class (look for booking code ZSPCA14) and require a Sunday stay. There's also a surprisingly low $100 cancellation/change fee.
EVA AIRWAYS: Premium Economy Sale to Asia From Los Angeles and Seattle
EVA Airways, the Taipei-based carrier, has been slowly showing up on business travelers' radar now that it is part of the Star Alliance. Besides, it does offer a competitive premium economy cabin and has posted some excellent fares from its Los Angeles and Seattle-Tacoma gateways. From Seattle/Tacoma, prices begin at $1,415 roundtrip (to Taipei) and up to $100 more to destinations such as Bangkok and Phnom Penh. From Los Angeles, it's $1,465 roundtrip to Taipei and less than $100 more to destinations such as Ho Chi Minh City and Kuala Lumpur. Premium economy is available only on the transpacific legs. It's coach beyond Taipei. Tickets must be purchased by January 31 and travel is permitted midweek until March 31. Information: the SEATTLE and LOS ANGELES promotion pages.
LA COMPAGNIE: Really Cheap Winter Two-Fers to London and Paris in Business Class
La Compagnie has proven its staying power and its all-business class service to London/Luton and Paris/CDG from Newark is a spectacular deal for the money. It's even better when the boutique carrier offers two-fers in the winter months. Right now, for example, two can fly to Paris for just $2,900 roundtrip. It's even cheaper to London: two-fers are going for just $2,500 roundtrip. The London deal is valid until March 31 when you book by January 31. The Paris offer is available for travel only between February 8 and February 21 if you book by February 14. The latter deal is being promoted as a Valentine's Day special. Information: the LaCompagnie DEALS AND SPECIAL OFFERS page.
HAINAN AIRLINES: At These Prices, Fly Just for the Hunan Cuisine
Privately owned Hainan Airlines is trailblazing a nonstop route to Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province, from Los Angeles. The flights start January 21 and the carrier has posted eye-popping coach and business class prices. In business class, the roundtrip price is just $2,709 for travel through March 24. In coach, the fare is $547 roundtrip for flights between January 28 and April 30. At those prices, you can fly over just for a taste of genuine stinky tofu or stewed beef with rice vermicelli. And there's always Hunan beer duck. I mean, why wouldn't you? The one caveat: Tickets must be purchased in the next few days to score the capacity controlled lowest fares. Information: the OFFERS page.
CATHAY PACIFIC: Comparatively Comfortable to Hong Kong at Relatively Cheap Prices
Premium Economy class is quickly replacing business class as the airlines' promotional choice for fare sales. Witness Cathay Pacific, which has a very nice premium economy cabin indeed. Is it as good as Cathay's award-winning business class? Of course not. But the prices are extremely modest for the comfort offered on these long-haul flights. The current deals: Just $1,900 roundtrip from San Francisco to Hong Kong when you travel between January 9 and May 23. It's $1,916 roundtrip from Los Angeles and $2,069 from Chicago. The best bargains are from the U.S. East Coast, where Cathay has common-rated the fare at $2,069 roundtrip to Hong Kong from its Boston, Newark or New York/Kennedy gateways. Cancellation and change fees are quite modest ($100) and the 7-day advance purchase requirement is modest, too. The lowest fares are for midweek travel. Book by February 29. Information: the PREMIUM ECONOMY CLASS OFFER page.
BRITISH AIRWAYS: Let's Do That AARP $400 Discount Deal for Another Year
The still-inexplicable British Airways sale late in October was sweetened by the fact that you could stack the AARP discounts atop the already ridiculously low fares. The AARP deal was slated to end on October 31, but much to the surprise of some observers, it's been extended for another year. That means you can score $400 off a first or business class fare, $130 off a premium economy price and $65 off in coach. Those discounts are for roundtrip prices, of course. No one-ways or open jaws need apply. But the discounts also apply to BA's code-shares with American, Iberia, OpenSkies and Finnair. Naturally, you must be an AARP member (go ahead, spring for the $12 annual fee) and you do have to book through the approved AARP portal. As we learned during the October bonanza, however, all of BA's fares are there. Information: the TRIP OF A LIFETIME page.
UNITED AIRLINES: Big Bonuses If You Fly to Haneda Because Someone Should
U.S. carriers spent decades trying to get access to Tokyo's close-in Haneda airport. When Japanese authorities finally allowed it several years ago, U.S. carriers received what could be politely called sub-optimal take-off and landing times. Which explains why American Airlines and Delta Air Lines have already dropped several of their Haneda routes. United is still plugging away on its San Francisco-Haneda service, however, and now it's offering up large MileagePlus bonuses if only you'll fly the route. First class fares (F and A codes) receive 7,500 bonus miles per segment. The bonus is 5,000 miles in business (J, C, D, Z and P codes) and higher-priced coach fares receive 3,000 miles. You can receive an unlimited number of bonuses through January 31. And here's a bonus atop a bonus: You'll receive the same number of bonus miles if you fly All Nippon Airways' Los Angeles-Haneda flights. Advance registration is required. Information: the United OFFER page.
AER LINGUS: We've Got a Lot of Business Class Seats Now So We'll Discount Liberally
Aer Lingus remade itself as a low-fare European specialist long before British Airways' parent company decided the Irish carrier would be a great alternative for travelers looking to avoid connections at London's crowded and convoluted Heathrow Airport. But both factors mean Aer Lingus has a lot more gateways and a lot more business class seats. And that means discount opportunities for us. For travel until March 31, roundtrip prices are as low as $2,499 roundtrip (New York to Dublin or Shannon). There are also excellent prices from Chicago ($2,649 roundtrip to Dublin). There are also sales from Boston, Washington and San Francisco, but the rates aren't quite as notable. The lowest prices require a 28-day advance purchase, there are some no-fly days and a Saturday-night stay is required. Information: the FLY BUSINESS CLASS page.
ONEWORLD ALLIANCE: Big Bonuses in All Classes for Transatlantic Flights
The prime Oneworld Alliance carriers plying the transatlantic routes--American, British Airways, Finnair and Iberia--last year offered as much as 125,000 bonus AAdvantage miles for just three premium class roundtrips. This year it'll five take roundtrips in first or business class before January 31 to earn that much, but there is a saving grace. This year premium economy flights and coach travel earn bonuses, too. Each low-fare coach flight will earn 2,000 miles up to 10,000 miles. Premium economy travel earns 7,000 bonus miles per roundtrip up to a maximum of 35,000 miles. And business and first class roundtrips each earn 25,000 miles. You must register in advance, of course, and you should check the fare buckets to see exactly what you earn. Information: the FLY TO EUROPE page.
PACKAGE DEALS WORTH CONSIDERING
ENGLAND: Because There'll Always Be a Downton Abbey Tour
If you want to talk British TV, I'm happy to discuss Monty Python or The Forsyte Saga or even the David Bowie-inspired Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes mash-ups of police procedurals and science fiction. But Downton Abbey? I got nothing. Never watched a moment of the global phenomenon that ended on Christmas day in Britain and is wrapping up soon in the United States. Still, the travel industry knows a winning formula when it watches one, which explains why a packager called Tours International is on its third "series" of Downton Abbey-inspired packages. This year's offering, from September 3-6, includes: a visit to Highclere Castle, the eponymous Downton Abbey; a tour of Bampton, the village that the show calls Downton; a visit to the location used for Yew Tree Farm; and even a stop at Lady Rosamund's residence, which is really 35 Belgrave Place in London. There are other show-themed visits and events; three nights of accommodations in a four-star London hotel; breakfasts, lunches, Champagne and, of course, afternoon tea. The tour is limited to 25 people and costs $3,500 a couple or $2,200 if you're going solo. Airfare is not included. Information: the DOWNTON ABBEY page.
OXFORD: So You Never Got to Be a Rhodes Scholar...
So you never got to be a Rhodes Scholar. Fear not because there is always The Oxford Experience, the summer session at Oxford University that offers dozens of week-long courses to travelers of all ages, social classes, intelligence levels and interests. One-week packages include the tuition and lectures for your course; lodging in Christ Church College dorms; and three meals daily. There are several dozen courses from which to choose, including studies in archeology, history, literature, politics, art and music. Courses are held in the morning, which leaves afternoons free for touring and optional excursions and evening for everything from whisky tasting to lessons in Morris dancing. At the end of the week, you even get a farewell dinner and something like a diploma. It's then up to you whether you want to run for the House of Commons or buy yourself a seat in the House of Lords. (Okay, I made that last part up, except, you know, the buying your way into the House of Lords.) Prices start at 1,285 pounds per person and upgrades to private accommodations with private baths start at 90 pounds each for two traveling together or 180 pounds if you go solo. The weekly sessions take place from July 3 to August 13. My choice for favorite courses in the 2016 offerings? There's a nice overview of 1960s popular music, one that seems to riff off British TV costume dramas and a deep dive into Lawrence of Arabia. (The person, not the movie...) Information: the University of Oxford SUMMER SCHOOLS page.
GROUND TRANSPORT DEALS WORTH YOUR TIME
SUPERSHUTTLE: 10 Percent Off Airport Rides on Those Ubiquitous Blue Vans
SuperShuttle International, the shared-van service that operates from 40 airports, is offering a 10 percent discount on rides during the slower winter season. To grab the deal, use the code GFT2U and book your rides before March 15. The discount is available at the SuperShuttle Web site only. Information: the OUR GIFT TO YOU page.
AMTRAK: Three Winter Trips in the East Mean a Summer Freebie
Let's just say government-owned and bureaucratically marketed Amtrak isn't at the pinnacle of promotional activity. Still, its annual version of BOGO (okay, buy three, get one) isn't too bad. If you take six Acela one-way trips (or three roundtrips) before February 29, Amtrak will buy you back a roundtrip (or two one-ways) between July 2 and August 31. It is offering the same buy three (or six), get one (or two) promotion for trips on the slower Northeast Regional runs. You must register independently for both offers. Registration for the Acela offer is here and the Northeast Regional registration is here. There are some modest blackout dates on the freebies and some minimum-spend rules for the winter purchases.
AVIS: 500 American AAdvantage Miles for Three-Day Rentals
Mileage offers are drying up everywhere else, but there continue to be relative gold mines in the car-rent arena. The latest from Avis is 500 American AAdvantage miles on virtually any rental worldwide. However, you will have to do a three-day rental for those miles, which isn't nearly as generous as the previous 500-mile-per-day offer. Use coupon code #MUAA062 for rentals that begin by March 31. Information: the Avis DRIVE FOR MILES page.
UNITED/HERTZ: Really Awful Suppliers, Really Big Bonuses
I can't think of two suppliers doing poorer jobs right now than United Airlines and Hertz. But they are marketing partners these days--in fact, a failed former United C-suite executive runs Hertz--and they seem desperate for your custom. The solution: gigantic bonuses for even one-day rentals. Until February 29, book a mid-size or larger Hertz car at United.com and you'll receive a 1,500-mile bonus atop the 500-1,250 miles you'd normally earn as a MileagePlus member. So that means 2,000 to 2,750 miles for rentals as short as a single day. Information: the EARN AWARD MILES page.
ENTERPRISE: The Return of the $10-a-Day Weekend Rental
Even as it has rocketed to the top of the car-rental heap, Enterprise continues to do things differently. For starters, all of its locations are company owned, astonishing in this era of franchised everything. It has expanded rapidly at airports, but its roots remain in the we'll-pick-you-up local station. And many of those local stations close on Sunday with short hours on Saturday. The result: a ridiculously wonderful promotion that offers cars as low as $9.99 a weekend day, so long as you return the car on Monday. The $9.99 rate covers economy or compact cars. Larger cars are $14.99-$19.99 a day. The rates include 100 miles per day and are valid for rentals that start on Fridays. Best of all, the prices are valid at participating local stations until May 23. Information: the Enterprise WEEKEND SPECIAL page.
NATIONAL CAR RENTAL: The Best Car-Rental Bonus Ever Is Back Again
Sometimes the classics are the best and that's certainly true for National's One Two Free promotion. Two rentals of a midsize car by January 31 earn a free rental day that you can use by June 15. As has been the case in recent years, the points-based system offers 300 points per qualifying rental. It takes 600 points for a freebie. And as usual, National has thrown in a few wrinkles to pique your continued interest. You'll get a one-time bonus of 300 points for any size rental in Latin America, the Caribbean or Europe. You'll also receive 300 bonus points for every renter you refer to the Emerald Club. Downloading and using National's app gets you 75 bonus points per rental up to a maximum of 300 points. You can earn as many as 50 free rental days during the promotion. Advance registration and membership in the National Emerald Aisle program is required. Information: the ONETWOFREE page.
NOTABLE CREDIT CARD ACQUISITION BONUSES
CHASE: Take a United Business Card, Get 50,000 MileagePlus Miles
With the major airlines now essentially locked in to a partner bank, lavish super-duper acquisition bonuses have largely disappeared. But here's a way to pick up a 50,000-mile bonus essentially free. Chase has bumped up the acquisition bonus on the business version of its MileagePlus Explorer card to the 50,000-mile plateau. All you need do is spend $2,000 on the card during the first three months. Chase will even comp the first year's annual fee of $95. The card itself has some good benefits: no foreign exchange fees; first checked bag free; a pair of United Club passes each year, and primary car-rental coverage. Carrying the card also means United waives the expiration date on your MileagePlus balance. Information: the FOR BUSINESS OWNERS page.
This column is Copyright © 2016 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2016 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.