Steals & Deals for Dec. 22-31, 2016
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AIRLINES: India, Where Cash Is No Longer King, Still Has Cheap Fares
The currency crisis roiling India may be putting the squeeze on local business, but international airlines are still posting giveaway fares between the United States and the subcontinent. Most of the cheapies are back in coach, but there are some good business class fares, too. Here is some of what's hot right now. If you don't see your route or class here, check around. The deals change almost daily.
Emirates operates to India via its Dubai hub. New York to Kochi is $799 roundtrip in coach or $4,419 in business class. Chicago to Ahmadabad is $759 roundtrip in coach or $4,059 in business class. San Francisco to Mumbai is $869 roundtrip in coach or $3,719 in business class. Seattle to Delhi is $899 in coach or $3,569 in business class. Tickets must be purchased by December 29 for travel between January and November. There's a 7-day advance purchase requirement and 7-day minimum stay.
Lufthansa flies customers to the subcontinent via its Frankfurt and Munich hubs. New York-Chennai is $839 roundtrip in coach. Charlotte-Delhi is $869 roundtrip. Detroit-Bengaluru is $859 roundtrip. Houston-Mumbai is $929 roundtrip. And Los Angeles-Delhi is $989 roundtrip. Tickets must be purchased by January 3 with departures permitted between January 8 and May 11. There's a Saturday minimum-stay requirement and the cheapest fares are available Monday through Thursday.
Qatar Airways operates to India via its Doha hub. Atlanta to Hyderabad or Mumbai is $830 roundtrip in coach. New York to Chennai is $745 roundtrip in coach. Philadelphia is $845 roundtrip to Bengaluru. Washington to Delhi is $765 roundtrip. Tickets must be purchased by December 25 for travel between January 11 and May 14. There's a 7-day minimum stay required.
Turkish Airlines flies to Indian via its Istanbul hub. Fares include New York or Chicago to Mumbai for $646 roundtrip in coach; Atlanta to Delhi for $690; and Chicago to Delhi for $677. Tickets must be purchased by December 28 for travel until April 30.
THIS WEEK'S OTHER NOTABLE BARGAINS
AIR CANADA: A Free Stop in Canada When You Book at AirCanada.com
Air Canada is looking to bulk up its connecting and international traffic from U.S. customers. Its lure: a free stopover in Toronto for as long as seven days. So if you've yearned for a week in Canada's financial and cultural hub and are flying to Europe or Asia, this is the deal for you. The free stop is available on higher-priced coach fares as well as premium economy and business class prices. The 7-day promotion lasts until June 30. But, wait, there's more. Another Air Canada stopover program gives you a free hotel night on most any higher-priced coach or premium class connecting fare when you change planes in Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver. You even qualify for a free hotel night in both directions.
MARRIOTT/STARWOOD: One Big Happy Family, One Dull Winter Promotion, Two Familiar Names
Now that Marriott, Starwood and their amalgam of 30 brands are one big happy family, it's really no surprise that they are coordinating their points promotions. Starwood Preferred Guest retains its Double Take branding, but is offering double points on your first three stays between January 16 and April 15. Marriott Rewards retains its MegaBonus branding, but is offering double points on your first three stays between January 16 and April 15. See how that works? Different names, same deal. You must register separately for each promotion. And after the first three stays, you'll receive a mass-customized promotion for additional business you throw Marriott and Starwood's way. That is a twist Marriott has used for years on MegaBonus and now it applies to Starwood, too.
LUFTHANSA: Premium Seats Below $1,300? Sure, But Don't Say Our Booking Fee Is Hurting Us
Lufthansa claims it isn't being seriously hurt by its offensive decision to make us pay a fee as part of its fight with the operators of the GDS booking computers. But a look at prices in its two-year-old premium economy story tells quite a different story. Its rates this winter are even lower than the super-cheap fares it used last year to introduce the cabin. Some current sample fares: $1,259 roundtrip from New York to Frankfurt; $1,819 from Boston to Berlin; $1,499 from Washington to Naples; $1,489 from Los Angeles to Nice and $1,559 from San Francisco to Venice. You can travel midweek until April 6 if you book by January 8, include a Saturday-night stay and book 14 days in advance. And don't forget that you'll pay that offensive fee if you book virtually anywhere but the Lufthansa Web site. Information: the Lufthansa ENJOY PREMIUM ECONOMY page.
HOTEL POINTS AND PRICE PROMOTIONS
HOTELS: Small Chains With Big Bargains for the Slower Season
As the big get bigger in lodging, the smaller chains need to fight for attention to stay relevant during the slower winter months. The tool of choice? Price cuts, of course, often dressed up with holiday trimmings. Here are some of the deals we've seen:
Fairmont offers 10 to 30 percent off all properties. President's Club members also receive a room upgrade. Book by March 31 for travel through April 30. Information: the STAY LONGER. STAY MORE. page.
Omni offers up to 15 percent off nightly rates and a $10 gift card valid for food and beverage purchases. Travel is valid until December 30. Information: the STAY, SAVE & BE MERRY page.
Sonesta offers 10 to 35 percent off at Sonesta hotels and 25 percent at Sonesta ES extended-stay properties. Travel must be booked by February 10 for travel by March 31. Use code 2017WS for U.S. properties and WINTER for hotels in St. Maarten. Information: WINTER SALE page.
WYNDHAM REWARDS: Three Free Nights (Via Credit Card). Just Forget Those Crappy Places.
Wyndham Rewards lashes together a strange collection of hotels--some lovely properties under the Wyndham, Dolce and Tryp brands; middling joints like Baymont and Wingate; and a mess of roadside dumps using tired names such as Travelodge, Howard Johnson, Super 8 and (shiver) Knights Inn. The trick: all the rooms cost 15,000 points a night no matter how good or bad. So if you take Wyndham's platinum version of the Barclay Visa Signature card, make sure to use the 45,000-point acquisition bonus wisely. You'll get 30,000 points for your first purchase and another 15,000 points if you spend $2,000 in the first 90 days. The annual fee is $75, not bad if you claim those 45,000 points for three free nights in the right hotels. Information: the WYNDHAM REWARDS page.
BEST WESTERN: $10 Back on Every Stay in December and January
Best Western has a weak loyalty program, so its primary method of goosing up traffic in the slow months is cash--or cash equivalents. This cycle's promotion: a $10 electronic gift card for every stay until January 29. You have to register for the promotion, of course, and be a member of Best Western Reward, that weak frequency plan. Information: GO. GET. REWARDED. page.
HILTON HHONORS: 5,000 Bonus Points If You Do a Bunch of Stuff
Hilton HHonors points are viciously devalued, so 5,000 of them aren't worth much. Still, Hilton will give you 5,000 if you register, book using the Hilton HHonors app and use a Visa to pay for a stay before January 31. Got that? Register, book by app, pay with Visa and stay in the next few months. Ironically, the information is on Hilton HHonors' MAKE TRAVEL EASIER page.
CLUB CARLSON: Double Points or Double Elite-Qualifying Nights
Club Carlson, the frequency program for Radisson, Country Inn and other hotel chains, is first out with a late-fall promotion. The offer: double points on stays--or double elite-qualifying nights. If you're building points for free nights, go with the double points, of course. Choose the double elite-qualifying nights if you want Club Carlson's elite status, which isn't particularly strong. The promotion period lasts until December 31. Information: the DECISIONS, DECISIONS page.
MARRIOTT REWARDS: A Huge Acquisition Bonus and Elite Status for $85
Silver Elite status in the Marriott Rewards program isn't fabulous and usually requires 10 nights of stays a year. But the Marriott Rewards credit card from Chase will comp it for you in exchange for its $85 annual fee. There is also a free night in Category 1-5 hotels each year you maintain the card. But now there's another interesting fillip: an 80,000-point bonus if you charge $3,000 in the first three months. The big bonus is good for two free restricted nights at Marriott's best hotels (Category 9) or four restricted free nights in the chain's mid-range (Category 5) properties. Information: the Marriott Rewards EARN 80,000 POINTS page.
GLOBAL AIRLINE DEALS TO CONSIDER
SINGAPORE AIRLINES: $1,299 Lemonade (Premium Economy) From Lemons (Houston-Manchester)
Singapore Airlines keeps trying to make lemonade from its grab bag of so-called "fifth freedom" rights that allows it to fly to a third country en route from the United States to Singapore. The most lemon-y route of all? Nonstops between Houston/Intercontinental and Manchester, a service that replaced the failed Houston-Moscow run. Starting January 17, Singapore will deploy one of its new Airbus A350s on the IAH-MAN run and that means a 24-seat premium economy cabin, too. Singapore was late to the game with premium economy among international airlines, so you twin a bad route with a little-known product and you have a service ripe for a big discount. The solution? Roundtrips as low as $1,299 when you book by January 31 for travel until March 31.
HAINAN AIRLINES: China Very, Very Cheap, Mostly in Coach--But Business Class, Too
Privately owned Chinese carrier Hainan Airlines has been expanding rapidly in the United States and it also has an excellent reputation for service. Even better, it's offering astoundingly inexpensive fares in coach (and some business class) if you can travel during the first four months of the year. It's just $493 roundtrip from Seattle to Shanghai; $551 from Los Angeles to Changsha; from Boston, it's $551 to Shanghai; and it's $503 from Chicago to Beijing. It's especially cheap from Las Vegas: $454 roundtrip to Beijing and just $2,521 roundtrip in business class to Beijing. Travel is permitted until the spring if you book flights by December 31. The only major restriction: a three-day minimum stay. Information: the Hainan OFFERS page.
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, especially from the West Coast. It's just $1,406 roundtrip from Los Angeles to Paris and only $1,445 from San Francisco. The low-ball price is from Washington/Dulles, at just $1,285 roundtrip. From New York, it's $1,427 roundtrip. The advance purchase rules are a bit stiff, however: 21 days from New York and 28 days from other cities. Travel is permitted until April 6, however. Information: the PREMIUM ECONOMY page.
ASIANA: Buy Now Cheaper, Fly Until May in Business Class
Asiana is a distant second to Korean Air in the local air market, but it, too, hubs at Seoul's exceptional Incheon Airport and it has excellent connections there throughout Asia. Its business class is just fine. And now Asiana is offering a business class promotion for travel until May 7. Prices start as low as $2,947 roundtrip from Chicago to Seoul and include $3,201 from Seattle and a few hundred more from New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco. If you're based in Hawaii, the roundtrip fare from Honolulu to Seoul is just $2,309 roundtrip. Prices for connecting flights throughout Asia start at $2,716 roundtrip (Chicago-Manila). A seven-day advance purchase applies. The lowest fares are for midweek travel. Tickets must be purchased by December 31 in most markets. Information: the EARLY BIRD SPECIALS page.
BRITISH AIRWAYS: Let's Do That AARP $400 Discount Deal for Another Few Months
The still-inexplicable British Airways sale last year was sweetened by the fact that you could stack the AARP discounts atop the already ridiculously low fares. This year's AARP deal was slated to end on October 21, but was extended until December 31. Now it's been extended to January 31. That's either good news or bad. Short-term extensions are always good, but, in previous years, BA extended the deal for an entire year. Either way, though, it means you can still 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 minimal annual fee) and you do have to book through the approved AARP portal. As we learned during last year's bonanza, however, all of BA's fares are there. Information: the TRIP OF A LIFETIME page.
KLM: Sure, Africa Is a Long Haul in Coach, But These Prices Are Insanely Low
Deals to Africa are hard to come by. But along comes KLM with simply insane pricing albeit in coach. How about Atlanta to Nairobi for as little as $753 roundtrip? Or New York to Algiers for $905 roundtrip? Or Los Angeles to Nairobi for $848 roundtrip? Or even Washington to Johannesburg for as little as $913 roundtrip. The prices aren't come-ons, either. KLM has a handy-dandy bar graph showing you when the fares are available and there seems to be substantial availability. Almost all 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. Information: the EXPLORE AFRICA TODAY page.
AMERICAN AIRLINES/QANTAS: Big Bonuses on Australia/New Zealand Flights
As U.S. and Anzac carriers have added flights in recent years, they need to fill a surplus of seats to Australia and New Zealand. The inducement from Oneworld Alliance partners American Airlines and Qantas? AAdvantage bonuses for premium fares and multiple trips. You can earn as much as 50,000 miles for three first class flights (10,000 for the first one-way, 15,000 for the second and 25,000 for the third). Business class will net as much as 25,000 miles (5,000/7,500/12,500) and higher-priced coach seats will earn 9,000 miles (1,500/2,500/5,000). You must register and book by December 31 and fly between February 1 and May 31. Only certain fare buckets in each class of service qualify, so check the promotional terms and conditions carefully. Information: the BONUS MILES page.
GROUND TRANSPORT DEALS WORTH YOUR TIME
NATIONAL CAR RENTAL: The Best Car-Rental Bonus Ever Is Back Again--for Another Month
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. But now it's even better: the rental period has been extended until February 28. 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, Europe or the Caribbean. 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. There are also bonuses for weekend and weekday rentals of specified durations--and renting from local Enterprise locations. Advance registration and membership in the National Emerald Aisle program is required. Information: the ONETWOFREE page.
AMERICAN EXPRESS: Two Free Airport Pickups Via Uber. Yup, Free.
Nothing's better than free, so you really need to pay attention to this even if you never pay attention to American Express or Uber. Amex will gift you with two free Uber rides from nearly a dozen airports when you use the perk before December 31. The offer covers all three major New York area airports, both Chicago airports and Seattle-Tacoma, Boston/Logan, Las Vegas, Houston/Intercontinental as well as Washington/National and Dulles. The offer is valid for as much as $65 a ride and must originate at the airport. Use the promo code AMEXAIRPORT. Information: the HOLIDAY TRAVEL MADE EASY page.
AVIS/BUDGET/AADVANTAGE: Rent Three Days, Earn Up to 500 Miles
Mileage earning from car rentals has had a strange history. In the early days of the frequency programs, they were gushers of cheap miles. Then the car rental firms realized they were paying plenty to the airlines for miles without moving the market since all the companies were doing the same thing. So for decades rentals were earnings deserts. Lately, however, airlines and rental firms have been working out relatively exclusive deals. Latest example? Avis/Budget will give you as many as 500 American AAdvantage miles for a three-day rental. The deal is valid until April 30, after being scheduled to end on October 15. Information: the EARN MORE. SAVE MORE. page.
HERTZ/AIR CANADA: Up to 4,000 Aeroplan Miles for Surprisingly Short Rentals
Hertz is teaming up with Air Canada to offer a rich basket of Aeroplan miles. You will receive 1,000 miles for rentals of one or two days and 4,000 miles for longer rentals. That bounty may even be enough to offset Hertz's increasingly mediocre service. The bonus applies to rentals until December 31 in Canada, the United States, Puerto Rico and Mexico. You must use code PC# 111075. Information: the Hertz SPECIAL OFFERS 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 December 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 last year. 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 22. Information: the Enterprise WEEKEND SPECIAL page.
NOTABLE CREDIT CARD ACQUISITION BONUSES
CHASE: 80,000 Points for Ink, a Great Companion to Sapphire Preferred
If you're collecting Chase Ultimate Rewards Points--and you should since they are so flexible--the Sapphire Preferred Card is the one to have for travel and dining charges. (See below.) But you should also have an Ink Business Preferred, too. It'll give you three points per dollar spent on office supplies, shipping purchases, mobile phone charges, Internet and cable fees. And now you'll score an acquisition bonus of 80,000 points when you charge $5,000 in the first 90 days. Information: the INK FROM CHASE page.
CHASE: 100,000 Ultimate Rewards Points and 'Infinite' Travel Perks
Chase is slowly rolling out various flavors of the Visa Infinite card, a charge vehicle virtually unknown in the United States. After dropping the Ritz-Carlton version of the card several weeks ago (see below), it is now offering the so-called Chase Sapphire Reserve. It carries the same hefty annual fee ($450), but includes a $300 annual travel credit. In other words, the effective cost is just $150 a year. What does that get you? Three Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on travel and dining; a rebate of your PreCheck or Global Entry fee; a Priority Pass card valid for entry at 700 airport clubs; and car-rental perks from National, Avis and Silvercar. Oh, there is the inducement from Chase to take the card: 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points if you spend $4,000 during the first 90 days you have the card. Ultimate Rewards points transfer 1:1 to United or Southwest Airlines or Marriott, Hyatt or InterContinental hotels. Information: the SAPPHIRE RESERVE card.
CHASE/RITZ-CARLTON: One Ring--Err, Hotel Credit Card--to Rule Them All
It's been rumored for months: Chase would soon issue a Visa Infinite, the perks-packed instrument that is Visa's most prestigious global card. And it turns out to be true. Chase is now only the second U.S. bank to offer a Visa Infinite. But it didn't stop there. It made the Visa Infinite the new Ritz-Carlton card and it is laden with useful benefits that far outweigh the hefty $450 annual fee. Spend $5,000 during the first three months and you'll earn three free nights at Tier 1-4 Ritz-Carltons. Cardholders also receive a $300 annual travel credit; $100 off whenever you purchase two or more domestic coach tickets, and a Priority Pass membership, valid for entry to about 700 airport clubs worldwide. The card also comes bundled with Gold status in Ritz-Carlton Rewards, five points per dollar spent at Ritz-Carlton and many full-service Marriott-branded properties and two points per dollar spent on restaurants and travel. All in all, a heavyweight card even if you're not a frequent Ritz-Carlton or Marriott customer. Information: the FIND YOUR NEXT ADVENTURE 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.
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.
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.