Steals & Deals for May 26-June 9, 2016
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LOT POLISH: Buy Now, Fly Later at Low Prices This Fall and Winter
LOT Polish Airlines doesn't discount, even in business class, during most of the summer. It never has, even when its Star Alliance partners were lighting up the deal board with bargains. But LOT is getting extremely aggressive this fall and winter, when travel to Poland slows dramatically and the carrier has empty seats on flights throughout Europe. This fall, for example, coach prices start as low as $485 roundtrip to Eastern European destinations and $672 to Polish cities. Tickets at the lowest prices are available through late March when you book by June 13. Premium economy prices start at $1,400 roundtrip when you book by June 5 and travel August 23-December 15 and December 24-March 31. Business class fares start at $2,608 and are available through late March if you book at least 14 days in advance. If you're unfamiliar with LOT, it flies Boeing 787 Dreamliners to its Warsaw hub and a selection of narrowbody aircraft to destinations throughout Europe.
THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE BARGAINS
AIR FRANCE: The First-Class-Isn't-What-It-Was Summer Sale
When it began remaking its transatlantic first class in 2014, Air France's plush upgrade also meant cutting the size of the cabin to just four seats from eight. But even the massive capacity reduction isn't enough to keep the front of the planes full during the summer. So the fall-back option--a big sale for those who can justify a bigger ticket--is now in play. Air France has cut first class fares to Paris to as low as $6,125 roundtrip from Washington, $6,625 from Houston and $7,125 from San Francisco. Flights for onward travel to destinations such as Florence and Johannesburg are available at sale prices, too. Travel is generally permitted in July and August when you book by June 1. A 7-day stay is required on most fares. Information: the LA PREMIÈRE CLASS SPECIAL OFFER page.
STARWOOD HOTELS: 40 Percent Off (the Second Night) at 'Select Service' Brands
Starwood wants you to know it'll knock 40 percent off the price of a hotel room at its "select service" brands such as Aloft, Element and Four Points. The hitch? The big discount is available only on the second night of a stay. In other words, we're actually talking about a 20 percent discount each night of a two-night stay. That's not bad, of course, but do check to make sure there aren't better rates available when you book. The deal is valid on stays through September 5 when you pay with an American Express card. There are also some daunting restrictions. Information: the 40% OFF page.
CHASE: 50,000-Point Bonus to Take a Card You Must Have in Your Wallet
Let's make this simple: Why the hell don't you already have a Chase Sapphire Preferred card? It offers two points per dollar spent on dining and all travel, including esoteric stuff like parking and commuter-train tickets. You get a 5,000-point bonus for adding an authorized user. There are no foreign-exchange charges and the $95 annual fee is waived in the first year. Plus the card is the gateway to Chase Ultimate Rewards, a program whose points transfer effortlessly on a 1:1 basis to the United, Southwest, Marriott, Hyatt and InterContinental frequency plans. If you don't have the card, now's the time because you'll also get a 50,000-point bonus when you charge $4,000 in the first three months. Information: the NEW CUSTOMERS page.
SAS Scandinavia: Really Cheap Flights If You Can Handle Coach
The days when the Star Alliance would slash business class fares to Europe for the summer seem gone. So now we have to look for deals down the back and maybe buy two seats to create a poor man's business class. The good news? SAS has fabulous coach fares to Scandinavia this summer and fall. Samples: From New York, as low as $598 roundtrip to Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo on many dates in August through mid-December. From O'Hare in Chicago, it's as low as $707 to Gothenburg. Even from Los Angeles, it's just $692 roundtrip to Oslo, a buck more to Copenhagen and $707 to Gothenburg. Similar fares are available from San Francisco, Miami, Washington/Dulles and Boston. Information: the LOW PRICE CALENDAR page.
EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNTS FOR MEMBERS
Now a part of IAG, the parent company of British Airways and Iberia, Aer Lingus has created a spacious and sophisticated transatlantic business class service to Dublin from many North American gateways. It has also built an extensive European network from its Dublin hub and hometown.
The Aer Lingus Offer: Receive a free roundtrip coach ticket to any Aer Lingus destination in Europe when you purchase an Aer Lingus business class seat to Dublin. Travel is permitted until August 31 from any Aer Lingus gateway in the United States or Canada. Stopovers in Dublin are permitted.
How to claim the offer: Surf here for complete details and information.
As the ground-transportation landscape has changed, we have a wide range of new global choices to get us to, from and around airports and cities. I favor Groundlink because it blends the traditional comfort, reliability and professionalism of black-car service with the price benefits and convenience of app-based ride-hail operations.
The Groundlink Offer: Receive 20 percent off rides when you book them using the GroundLink app.
How to claim the offer: Download the GroundLink app from the Apple or Android stores or the GroundLink.com Web site. Enter JOESENTME in the promo code box that will appear on the screen before you confirm your ride. The 20 percent discount will be applied to your ride price.
Owned by a journalist and operating for nearly 40 years, Cook Travel specializes in discount international business and first class fares and supplies premium seats at a substantial savings. Cook Travel also offers upgrades from full-fare coach on many international airlines. It also has net fares for substantial savings on last-minute travel.
The Cook Travel Offer: Receive 10% off published fares on SkyTeam international business and first class tickets. Receive 5% off published fares on Star Alliance international business and first class tickets. Complimentary upgrades on most airlines when available to business class from full-fare international economy. Booking fees for international tickets waived.
How to claim the offer: Call 800-435-8776 and identify yourself as a JoeSentMe member.
SHEFFIELD SPICE & TEA COMPANY
Sheffield has a shop in Las Vegas, where it has won raves for its unique products, offerings, recipes and service. But it has also launched a gorgeous Web site and has been winning customers from around the world. There are literally hundreds of products on offer: a dazzling range of carefully chosen teas, familiar and exotic spices, custom blends and rubs, chilis, oils and vinegars, sugars and accessories. In other words, everything a business traveler with taste needs to eat and drink better.
The Sheffield Spice & Tea Offer: Receive 15% off all purchases.
How to claim the offer: Surf to SheffieldSpices.com and when you reach the shopping cart page, enter this code in the coupon code box: joesentme2016
HOTEL POINTS AND PRICE PROMOTIONS
HOTELS: We Got Lots of Rooms, So Here Are Lots of Discounts
As hotel pricing continues to confound--see my Seat 2B column on the topic--lodging chains are grappling with the effects of its massive building binge. They've got to work harder to fill rooms and are reviving systemwide sales, a policy largely abandoned years ago. From Hilton, for example, the so-called Big World Sale knocks 10-30 percent off room rates if you prepay and travel through the summer and, in some regions, through the end of the year. But as if to underline exactly how difficult it is to keep thousands of individual hotels around the world in line, the promotion requires a mind-numbing chart to explain specifics. At the much smaller Kimpton division of InterContinental, the summer offer is as much as 25 percent off rates and double Karma Rewards credit. The travel window is open until September 5 when you book by May 27. The good news? The rates are not prepaid. The bad news? You must cancel seven days in advance. And Wyndham Hotels says its promotion knocks 15-25 percent off rates until September 6. If you complete two stays in that period, you'll also receive four $25 gift codes that can be applied against stays until October 31.
BEST WESTERN: Stay Twice in the Summer, Get $50 Off an Autumn Stay
Like far too many hotel chains, Best Western has fallen into a same-old-same-old promotional trap. So if this sounds familiar, you're not crazy. Still, the offer--$50 bucks off a stay--is better than a stick in your eye. To get the kickback, you must stay twice at a Best Western branded property between May 23 and August 28. You'll then get a $50 gift card that can be used against a future stay before November 15. Only one gift card can be earned during the promotion and advance registration is required. Information: the WELCOME TO TODAY'S BEST WESTERN page.
HALF MOON BAY: The Ritz, a Tesla, Breakfast and the Ocean I admit to a having a soft spot for the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay. Stuck in San Francisco on 9/11, my wife and I drove to the Ritz on the coast to bliss out for a few days while we waited for the airline system to reopen. The staff and the setting were soothing during what were literally the worst of times. So maybe I'm overrating this Tesla Driving Experience package currently offered at the hotel. Still, the bundle is compelling: It includes ocean view accommodations, breakfast for two, valet parking, the resort fee and a Tesla Model S to drive. The price isn't cheap ($959 a night), but, you know, if you've got the yen for a lovely oceanfront resort and a ride in a Tesla .... Information: the TESLA DRIVING EXPERIENCE page.
INTERCONTINENTAL HOTELS: A 30,000-Point Bonus for Stays in Asia and Africa
InterContinental Hotels doesn't offer much except points in its IHG Reward Clubs program, so, if you're playing, you're always trolling for more points. Pay attention to InterContinental's new Book Direct promotion. You receive 1,000 points for registering, 5,000 points for the first stay, 9,000 points for the second stay and 15,000 points for the third stay. That's a total of 30,000 points. There are some huge caveats, however. For starters, you can only collect the points at IHC hotels in the Middle East, Africa and the Asia/Pacific Region, although lodgings in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan are excluded. You must register and complete stays by August 31. And besides having to book direct with IHG (hence the purpose of the promo), you must reserve seven days in advance. If you're capable of hitting all those marks, cash in. Information: BOOK DIRECT page.
HOTELS: Here are Your Spring/Summer Hotel Promotions
Hotel chains are all over the map now when it comes to points promotions. They no longer rigidly do them quarterly--or in lockstep. Hyatt, for example, unleashed its deal for stays beginning April 1 (see below). More are coming through now. Here's the snapshot.
Club Carlson is offering a stair-step promotion valid for stays through July 31. Two nights of stays at Radisson, Country Inn and Park hotels will yield 5,000 bonus Gold Points. Complete five nights of stays and you'll receive 10,000 more. Get to ten nights and it'll be another 10,000 points. If you reach 15 nights, you'll receive an additional 25,000 points for a total of 50,000 Gold Points. Advance registration is required.
Hilton HHonors is offering a straightforward double points promotion through the heart of the spring and summer. You'll earn double base points on every stay anywhere in the world between May 1 and August 31. You can receive credit for as many as two rooms per stay and an unlimited number of points during the promotion period. Advance registration is required.
Starwood Preferred Guest is offering a so-called Triple Up promotion available between May 9 and July 31. You'll receive triple points for stays at Sheraton Hotels. Stays at other brands earn double points. Third prong: a 1,000-point-per-stay bonus for weekend stays. But the three-way is not quite as rich as it sounds because only stays of at least two nights qualify for the bonuses. And not every Starwood property participates. Registration opens on May 3.
HYATT GOLD PASSPORT: A Big Points Promotion After a Long Quiet Period
Hobbled by a computer transition that took months longer than planned and still isn't completely glitch free, Hyatt and its Gold Passport program have been off the promotional map for what seems like forever. But it comes roaring back in the second quarter with an extremely rich stair-step offer. Stay five nights between April 1 and June 30 and you'll earn 5,000 bonus Gold Passport points. Stay 10 nights and earn another 10,000 bonus points. If you stay 15 nights during the promo you'll earn another 15,000 points. If you're having trouble with the math, that a 30,000-point bonus for 15 nights of stays. Kick it up to 20 nights and you'll receive 20,000 more points. If you make it to 25 nights, you'll get a 25,000-point bonus for a total of 75,000 bonus points. Of course, that's atop your normal earnings--five points for every dollar spent--and any elite-status bonuses. Registration is required, of course, and you can do it here.
GLOBAL AIRLINE DEALS TO CONSIDER
ONEWORLD: Big (But Smaller) Miles/Points Bonuses for Higher-Priced Flights to Europe
The Oneworld Alliance is trying to goose spring and summer travel to Europe and its weapon of choice is a bushel of bonus frequent flyer credits. But the big credits are fewer than a similar promotion last year at this time. At American Airlines, the offer is as many as 50,000 AAdvantage miles when you fly before July 31. Bonuses start at 2,000 miles for roundtrip coach flights and include 15,000 miles for a roundtrip in premium economy or some full-fare coach fares and tops out at 50,000 miles for two roundtrips in first or business class. At British Airways, Iberia and OpenSkies, the offer is for as many as 50,000 Avios points. At Finnair, the 50,000 points are in the Finnair Plus program. The rules are exactly the same and advance registration is required in each promotion.
AIR FRANCE: Might as Well Try Premium Economy Before Delta Co-Opts it
Delta Air Lines has announced that it will launch a genuine international premium economy cabin next year and the betting is that its product will look a lot like the one already on offer from Skyteam partner Air France. It's one of the best in class. And, right now, Air France is offering some extraordinary values on the service. It's $1,802 roundtrip nonstop from Atlanta to Paris, $1,667 between Houston and Paris, a very attractive $1,766 between Los Angeles and Barcelona and $2,020 between San Francisco and Rome. Advance purchase and stay restrictions vary by route and so does the travel window. Generally speaking, however, there are late-fall travel options and a chance to fly between January and March, traditionally the weakest for transatlantic flying. Information: the PREMIUM ECONOMY page.
AIRLINES: Deep (Coach) Discounts to Asia From the West Coast
'Tis the season to think about Europe travel for most Americans, especially after the British Airways fire sale this week. But the gigantic discounts now seem to be to Asia. And while business and first class seats still seem out of reach, there are plenty of deep discounts in coach. I've detailed some of the best prices below. Travel windows and purchase requirements vary, so check the restrictions for each fare carefully.
DELTA AIR LINES is selling Seattle-Shanghai flights for $763 roundtrip, Seattle-Hong Kong for $873 and Los Angeles-Shanghai for $881.
EVA AIR is selling flights to Hong Kong or Macao (via its Taipei hub) for as little as $660 roundtrip. That price is from Houston to Macao, but flights from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and New York are less than $100 more.
HAINAN AIRLINES is selling nonstops from San Jose to Beijing for $559 roundtrip and Boston to Beijing or Shanghai for $658.
SINGAPORE AIRLINES has nonstops from Los Angeles to Tokyo for $846 roundtrip.
ASIANA: Deep Business Class Discounts to Asia Via Seoul
Asiana, the Number Two airline of South Korea, doesn't get much U.S. publicity even though it's a member of the Star Alliance. But attention must be paid because it often serves up huge business class deals to Asia via the comfortable, efficient hub at Seoul Incheon Airport. Currently, Asiana is selling business class seats between Chicago/O'Hare and Guangzhou, China, for $2,893 roundtrip. From New York/JFK, Asiana is selling flights to Hong Kong for $3,521 roundtrip. And from Los Angeles, it's $3,385 roundtrip to Manila. The fares are available primarily for midweek travel and a $300 surcharge applies for flights on Friday and Saturday. Travel is permitted through the end of the year if you book by May 31. Information: the Asiana CURRENT EVENTS page.
LA COMPAGNIE: One Airline, Two Routes, Real Pressure on Business Class Prices
What can I say other than La Compagnie continues to keep the pressure on U.S., British and French carriers on the runs to Paris and London. The boutique carrier is now offering its all-business-class flights for less than $1,400 roundtrip. That's far less than half the price of the major carriers' lowest fares and about a fifth of their walk-up prices up front. Yes, La Compagnie only has the two routes--Newark to Paris/CDG and Newark to London/Luton--and, yes, the business class isn't state-of-the-art perfect. But it's $1,600 roundtrip to London and $1,800 roundtrip to Paris. Two going together to London can even buy a duo for just $2,790 roundtrip. Really, what else is there to say--other than the fact that you have to lock in the fares by the end of May for travel through June. Information: the DEALS AND SPECIAL OFFERS page.
TAP AIR PORTUGAL: Join Us and We'll Give You Miles, Just Like the Old Days
TAP Air Portugal is edging back into the transatlantic market and returning to key cities on the East Coast. So it is absolutely no surprise that it would like to get attention for its frequent flyer program. What is a surprise? The revitalized Victoria Programme is offering bonuses to join, something that disappeared years ago from U.S. frequency plans. You'll receive a 1,000-mile sign-up bonus and an additional 2,000-mile bonus if you take a TAP flight in the first three months. Why join Victoria even if you don't expect to fly TAP much? The program offers awards on Star Alliance carriers, including United, Lufthansa and SAS. The introductory bonuses are available until September 30. Information: the VICTORIA page.
ALASKA AIRLINES: Double Miles For Flying BA Between Seattle and London
One of the strengths of the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, besides its decision to stick with miles-based earnings, is its spread of international partners. The latest promotion: double miles for flying British Airways between Alaska Air's Seattle-Tacoma hub and London. The miles bonanza is available until September 30 when you register in advance. Information: the EARN DOUBLE MILES page.
FINNAIR: Please, Somebody, Fly Us to Russia This Summer and Fall
For decades, Finnair has been the go-to carrier between the United States and Russia--and the Soviet Union before that. Its comfortable, compact hub at Helsinki has been a perfect place to change planes and reach a variety of Russian destinations. But what happens when no one is flying between the United States and Russia? Traffic now is almost as bad as during the bad old days of the Cold War. So faced with a nasty political impasse and a plummeting ruble, Finnair is doing the only thing it can do: slash prices to the bone. It's selling flights for as little as $570 roundtrip to Yekaterinburg, $585 to St. Petersburg and $590 to Moscow. Travel on Sunday through Thursday from August 16 to December 14. A seven-day minimum stay is required. Information: the OFFERS page.
KLM: Sure, Africa Is a Long Haul in Coach, But These Prices Are Insane
Deals to Africa are hard to come by. But along comes KLM with simply insane pricing albeit in coach. How about San Francisco to Cairo for as little as $807 roundtrip? Or New York to Algiers for $745 roundtrip? Or Los Angeles to Nairobi for $828 roundtrip? Or even Boston to Johannesburg for as little as $807 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 September 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 Sunday-night stay. Even more interesting? This is a repeat of a fare sale run earlier this year and most prices are lower than they were several months ago. Information: the EXPLORE AFRICA TODAY page.
AUSTRALIA: Big Mileage Bonuses From the Land Down Under
There's no truth to the rumor that I made these Australia bonus offers from Delta SkyMiles and American AAdvantage the deals of the week just because I wanted to link to Men at Work's banging, 35-year-old video for Down Under. I mean, what would you think of me? The deals can stand on their own. American Airlines, for example, is offering 5,000 miles for each roundtrip discounted coach flight, 15,000 miles for full-fare coach or premium economy flights and 30,000 miles for first and business class roundtrips. You can earn the promotional miles up to three times for as many as 90,000 miles on flights until May 31 on American or Qantas to Australia. Advance registration is required, of course. Meanwhile, Delta SkyMiles is offering a straight-up double miles promotion for Delta or Virgin Australia flights between Los Angeles and Sydney or Brisbane until May 31. That means you'll receive 10 miles per dollar spent plus any Medallion bonuses. Advance registration is required here, too. Meanwhile, I hope someone offers a promotion to Vienna, Austria, soon. There's a fabulous episode of Taxi featuring the Billy Joel song Vienna I want you to see. Oh, wait...
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.
GROUND TRANSPORT DEALS WORTH YOUR TIME
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 July 31. If this promotion sounds familiar, Avis and American have been announcing and extending it for more than a year. 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 July 31, 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 member of MileagePlus. So that means 2,000 to 2,750 miles for rentals as short as a single day. Does this sound familiar? It should. It's a re-introduction and extension of a promotion that the two companies have continually offered since October. Information: the EARN AWARD MILES page.
STAR ALLIANCE: Free Heathrow Express Upgrades for Gold Members
The Star Alliance isn't exceptionally strong in London, the hub for Oneworld Alliance partner British Airways. Which may be why it is offering upgrades to London-bound Star Alliance Gold members. But curb your enthusiasm. The upgrade isn't for London flights, but for trips on the Heathrow Express train that connects the airport with London Paddington station. To score the upgrade, present your full-fare coach Heathrow Express ticket and Star Alliance Gold credentials as you board the train. The promotion starts February 15. A reminder: You're Star Alliance Gold if you hold United MileagePlus Gold or higher status or Air Canada Altitude 50K status or higher. Information: the STAR ALLIANCE OFFERS page.
NOTABLE CREDIT CARD ACQUISITION BONUSES
BARCLAYCARD: The New Premium JetBlue Card Has the Best Bonus and Package
JetBlue Airways has dumped American Express as its credit card partner and moved to Barclaycard. The best of the new cards is the Barclay JetBlue Plus. It has a modest ($99) annual fee and a good acquisition bonus: 30,000 TrueBlue points when you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days. Ongoing card benefits include six points per dollar spent with JetBlue and two points per dollar spent at restaurants and grocery stores. You'll also get your first checked bag free and a 5,000-point bonus each year you hold the card. Information: the FLY FASTER page.
CHASE: 80,000 Points (and More) to Take the Marriott Rewards Card
The attention lately has all been on how Marriott will integrate the Starwood Preferred Guest program into Marriott Rewards. While that controversy bubbles on, Chase has rolled out an 80,000-point acquisition bonus for taking the Marriott Rewards Visa card. You'll need to spend $3,000 within three months of opening the account to score the bonus, but there's another perk buried in the fine print: a 7,500-point bonus for adding a second authorized user to the account. All in all, a pretty decent buy for the $85 annual fee. Standard benefits of the card include a free night at a Category 1-5 property each year, five points for every dollar spent at Marriott and enough elite credit to score silver-level status. Information: the LIMITED TIME 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.