Archive for the ‘Airfare Deals’ Category

The weather could be lovely later this month in Nice, France.

It will definitely be better than here in Cincinnati — and Nice has a beach and a market and a Michelin-starred restaurant in town (with several more nearby) and a very close Matisse-designed chapel; BUT I can’t take time away to get there this year — drat!

My loss.  Your gain.

Here’s how I was putting together a last-minute, spectacular vacation.  Now it can be for you and a special friend.

To nip the winter blahs in the bud, either:

1) Grab your partner.  Go to the Air France Flying Blue (rewards) site with $500 and 50,000 points (or $900 and 87,500 points if you want to go over in Business Class for a better chance at getting some sleep.)  Find Air France Promo Awards — 12,500 points each way from Chicago to Europe on KLM.  The best flight still available is the  connection  through Amsterdam on KLM’s 747.  (Fly a 747 upstairs in Business Class before that experience is gone!)

Traveling directly to Nice, you miss Milan’s Christmas shopping — unless you rent a car and make the 4 hour drive into Italy.  Beware: you may head for Milan and get distracted by other attractions along the way.  But that’s another blog entry!

OR

2) Take one of the NYC to Milan flights (Alitalia or Delta) made cheaper this year by Emirates’s entry into that market.  Last time I looked Cincinnati to NYC in First and nonstop on to Milan (Delta/Alitalia)  in Business was $2400 per person or $1076 in coach out of Cincinnati on Air France/Delta.  From the East Coast it’s $605 each in coach out of Newark on United/Lufthansa or $721 on Emirates out of JFK.

Stay in Milan a couple days, then drive to Nice.  I was going to try the Hotel Suisse (on the coast) and the Hotel La Villa Nice Victor Hugo (in town) in Nice, but there are any number of hotel rooms in the area still open for Euros or points.  I saw a Le Meridien promo this week.  There’s one in Nice, or Le Meridien Beach Plaza is in Monte Carlo — another adventure not that far up the coast.

Have a great trip!

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Once upon a time at Thanksgiving — not too long ago — we flew to St. Thomas to catch the shoulder season, rum, fun, seafood, sand, sun and surf on St. John, USVI.  Though quickly being weaned from stateside food, on our day of national feasting we searched for and found adequate sliced turkey with dressing and mashed potatoes, served from a disposable aluminum pan.

Stretched to a little over a week and divided between St. John’s  wonderful beaches, Thanksgiving was a nice break before plunging into the hectic Christmas season.  I was tanned.  I was rested.  I was not five pounds heavier.

The following year, we escalated to something really weird.  This time, totally passing up the traditional turkey, we went to Madrid at Thanksgiving when, with no fanfare, Delta posted a $1910 roundtrip business class fare.  The sale broke my “$2000 Business Class fare barrier,” and I couldn’t refuse.

We loved the clear, crisp days;  the fabulous food, both large and small (tapas) plates; the wonderful museums when it drizzled; and a couple “finds” at el Rastro flea market.  We were hooked on Thanksgiving week travel.

Giveaway/Getaway

Each year since, I’ve been on the lookout for a Thanksgiving giveaway/getaway.

Early last year, airlines began discounting seats to Turkey.  I started reading about Istanbul.  There was a lot to read.  I prepared for an adventure.  After nearly jumping on a rare $399 roundtrip fare from D.C. to Istanbul in March, I was ultimately hooked by a $532 fare out of Chicago at Thanksgiving.

I wrote a “Turkey in Turkey” post and researched a culinary walking tour of the backstreets of Istanbul with the wonderful folks at “Istanbul Eats.”   Frownface.  At the last minute I had to cancel.

I did the sour grapes thing to make myself feel better:  after all, the “super deal” was in coach.  Sure, you can self-medicate and fly non-stop from Newark, but it’s still a long, long flight.  And speaking of rest, how about some Istanbul unrest?  But I was still sad about missing the trip.

Another year, another direction

Times change.  Three years ago, Delta had surreptitiously offered a low fare.  This year I’ve been bombarded with Thanksgiving week specials.  Airlines no longer seem to care when we see how deep they’re willing to discount fares to fill planes.  It’s Priceline gone public.

An email this week from American Airlines stood out from the rest.  Was it the brightly colored “South American turkey” in the picture?  Or was it Lima, Peru?

Peru

Lima airfare special

Even though we’re not an AA “featured city,” I found roundtrip coach fares from CVG for $1054.  7200 miles with a stop in Dallas or Miami didn’t sound too bad.  It’s south.  It’s in the other hemisphere where November is very different — and that’s better!

Business class for only slightly more than coach

Glancing to the right on the AA flight listing, I was shocked to find roundtrip Business Class fares were just $700 more than Coach — $1729 to $1754.  Not exactly a mileage run bargain, but still a tempting option.  After a short coach commuter jet, I can choose a 757 or  767 out of MIA or DFW with a recliner or angle-flat bed and a decent meal (and extra mileage credit) for the 7 hours to Lima.

Lima via MIA

Lima via MIA

Delta is showing $1524 with lie-flat business class roundtrip from Atlanta, $1936 for those of us originating in Cincinnati.

Machu Picchu anyone?

November marks the “official” start of the Peruvian rainy season, but as I write this I’m looking at a forecast for the next 10 days in October that shows showers every day at Machu Picchu.  Who can outguess the weather?  Pack an umbrella.  Wear boots and a raincoat.  Enjoy the view.  It won’t be as crowded as my local supermarket at Thanksgiving, and in Lima the turkeys have those wonderful orange beaks.

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Every two months, Air France announces their “Promo Awards,” super good deals — 25 to 50% off — for redeeming rewards miles*.  There are usually specials for each of their “regions**,” but during May and June we (North America) had no deals.  For July and August, we scored!

About a week before the official announcement,  Air France posted a preview of their special deals.  The July-August preview was merely ok.

AF July 1 - aug 31

However, when the real chart went live, with active links to “Book Now,” things got a lot better.

AF JULY 1-Aug 31 GOT BETTER

Originally, Business Class availability was limited to Chicago, Montreal, and Washington, DC (the last two nearly impossible  connections from my airport — CVG).  AF added Business Class from Detroit, Minneapolis and New York City (not a screaming bargain at 46,875 miles, but still a good deal for Business Class at 25% off the Classic Award; or you can fly cheaply out of Boston, served quite well by AF and partners.  Houston and Washington, DC, are also on the chart but missed my screen shot.)

The Chicago to Europe Business Class award dropped from 46,875 (75% of the Classic Award 62,500) to 31,250 (a 50% bargain).

All the numbers here are one-way, and that’s a great thing about Flying Blue Awards — I like to sleep going over, which means Business Class.  Coming back home is usually a daytime flight.  If I can amuse myself in ways other than sleeping, it can be in Coach (25,000 mile Classic Award — or, heck, spring for the 31,250 and put my feet up in Business Class).

Mixed class awards are easy to book with Flying Blue Awards.  Even flights over to one city/country and back from another (“open jaw”) can be booked easily as two one-way flights with no miles penalty.  I like over to London, back from Paris.  I’m also thinking about over to Lisbon and back from Madrid — two delightful cities with a lot of fun touring options in between.  Flying Blue makes these possible.

Let’s Go!

*   *   *

* The website says, “with Promo Awards@, you save between 25 to 50% on the Award Miles usually required for a Classic Award ticket to certain destinations in the same cabin class. Promo Awards@ are available for limited periods and exclusively online. Discover these offers on our Flying Blue Promotions and News pages.  Please note that it is not possible to change or cancel Promo Awards@.”

** Air France, “regions” = Europe, North America, South America, Caribbean and Indian Ocean, Africa, Asia Pacific, and Middle East.

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Update (March 14, 2013):  $399 is gone, but there’s a pretty good fare on Air France “Super Spring Sale.”  Purchase before March 26 — as low as $667 New York >< Istanbul round-trip.  Departures through April 30.  I found March 30 >< April 10 @ $691.  Most fares are just under $710.

Update (February 20, 2013):  We’ve been posting about cheap fares to Istanbul since last November, but this one is unbelievable and not well promoted.  Buy tickets and start travel by March 7, 2013.

IAD - IST

Turkish Airways has a $399 fare from Washington, D.C. (IAD) to Istanbul (IST) on its non-stop Flight 8, returning on its non-stop Flight 7.

As of today, the possibilities include

  • Depart February 24 for 6, 7, 8, 9, or 10 nights
  • Depart February 25 for 5, 6, 7, 8, or 9 nights
  • Depart February 26 for 5, 6, 7, or 8 nights
  • Depart February 28 for 5 or 6 nights
  • Depart March 6 for 5, 6, 7, or 12 nights.

To explore flight options, use Matrix selecting “See calendar of lowest fares.”  For “Length of  stay,” I used a date range of “5-12,” but plug in whatever works with your schedule.  Select “Nonstop only” for “Stops.”

To explore other cheap options to Istanbul ($567 KLM from Chicago, $441 Delta from D.C., $494 from Newark, etc.) use our favorite airfare sleuths at The Flight Deal.

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*March 14, 2013 UPDATE*  Even though the deal is over, this post still contains useful information on KLM “Economy Comfort” seating and prices.

*FEBRUARY 12, 2013 UPDATE*   Istanbul is still an  under $500 bargain.  Delta from Newark fare must be purchased by February 17 and started by February 24.  Other origins possible under $760.

*NOVEMBER 15, 2012 UPDATE*   The KLM/AIR FRANCE/DELTA offer from CHICAGO (ORD), Originally scheduled to end November 6, is still available for $532.

$532 roundtrip from Chicago (ORD) to Istanbul (IST) is a fabulous bargain you can also use for travel in January, February, and March.  It’s a one-stop (to Amsterdam) flight on KLM.   (A similar deal is offered on United connecting to its non-stop from Newark.)  Book by November 8, 2012.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • the fare rules
  • how to make the flight even better
  • what we discovered on KLM’s website

The fare rule highlights:  “These fares are valid for departures January 5, 2013 through March 20, 2013. Tickets must be purchased before December 6, 2012 11:59PM EDT.”  We noted that Flying Blue members (the frequent flyer program of Air France and KLM) get miles credit, but at a reduced rate — 3400-ish for the trip.  (Booked through their partner Delta, I would get 11,041 status qualifying miles.)  The fare cannot be cancelled.  There is a $250 change fee.

How to make the flight even better:  As you go through booking on the KLM website, you have the option to select your seats.  The long leg (Chicago to Amsterdam) is on a 747-400 “Combi” that includes KLM’s “economy comfort” seating option.

I was amazed to see that these highly discounted seats can be upgraded for $123 on each of the long legs (ORD to AMS and the return).  Adding $123 and $123 to the $531.28 fare brings the ticket price to $777.28 — still quite a bargain — with 4 extra inches of legroom comfort and double the recline included!

Economy Comfort seats in Orange. Economy seats in Blue.

By upgrading to “economy comfort” you can select the only two-across seating (11 through 17 D & E) in economy class.  I’ve never flown this 747 configuration, so I checked SeatGuru.com.  Some people mentioned that the D/E row seats can be cold.  I prefer cold to hot, but be sure to get a blanket.

The shorter Amsterdam to Istanbul flight can also be upgraded — for $37 each way.  After looking at the seat map, I probably wouldn’t bother.

What I discovered on the KLM website:  I love to use it!  The site shows a very user-friendly fare chart by date for those of us who can shift schedules a day or two to save money.  The seat map was the real highlight for me.  When the seat selection window opened, it was love at first sight.  It looked like the seating might actually look on the plane. And when I selected my seat, a little person appeared.  It was magic — much more personal than airline sites that think I’m just an “x” in a box, like some tic-tac-toe thing.

Thanks to Delta airlines for providing the tic-tac-toe example — same KLM 747-Combi, same flight.  (Since the seat is marked “preferred,” could I select it if I had Medallion status?  I don’t know.  Without status, I can’t even buy the upgrade when making my reservation at Delta.com.)

Delta Seat Map of KLM 747 Combi

Delta Seat Map of the KLM 747 Combi

Summary:  If you’ve wanted to go to Turkey, maybe adding a quick flight to Athens, Greece, during your stay;  it won’t get any better.  And you can schedule a long (15 hour) layover in Amsterdam, if you’d like to spend the day there before continuing on to Istanbul.

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