Business Travel Briefing
For February 3-17, 2022
The briefing in brief: A special report on strategies and tactics for 2022 travel deals. The niche carriers have the best international offers, U.S. airlines are limiting themselves to "flash sales" and the major hotel chains are leaning into points promotions. And more, including the daily Coronavirus update.

The Omicron variant--and some really rotten winter weather--derailed the travel comeback many expected last fall. After the burst of holiday flying, U.S. air traffic has plummeted again and, on some days, slipped back below 70% of 2020's pre-pandemic highs. The new burst of Covid and the nasty weather also derailed many organized attempts by the travel industry to lure customers back with systemwide sales and promotions. Still, there are proverbial green shoots: All three Scandinavian countries this week began pulling down their Coronavirus restrictions and border controls. And even New Zealand, a country that assiduously closed borders in March, 2020, this week detailed a definitive reopening. Bottom line: Things are getting better ... slowly. People and politicians also are talking about how to switch to "endemic" rather than "pandemic." And that means we can turn back to searching for travel deals. Some thoughts, strategies and tactics are below.

With huge chunks of the profitable flying planet still off-limits and capacity to the rest of the world at a fraction of pre-pandemic levels, don't look to the major carriers for consistent discounts up front. The better option? See what the niche carriers offer. You're likely to do better there. To wit:
        La Compagnie, the French all-business-class boutique airline, has expanded beyond its Newark-Paris/Orly base. It is now promoting a pair of roundtrips between Newark and Milan for $2,800. A pair of tickets to Paris or Nice are going for $3,000 roundtrip. The Boarding for Love promotion offers the prices for booking until February 14, but seats are available on select dates through the summer.
        Singapore Airlines has been rebuilding its oddball network of fifth-freedom flights that allows it to fly between third countries. The New Year Specials offer cuts coach and premium economy fares, but the real deals are in business. Its New York/JFK-Frankfurt route is selling for $1,999 roundtrip up front. Los Angeles-Tokyo or Houston-Manchester is $2,999 roundtrip. Tickets must be purchased by February 10, but travel is permitted on select weekdays until late May.
        Emirates Airline has a pre-season sale on its Newark-Athens nonstop. Business class fares are as low as $2,965 roundtrip until May 31 if you book by February 14. The offer is buried on the carrier's Featured Fare page.

Can you remember the last time a U.S. airline advertised on television or in a newspaper? Yeah, me neither. The medium of choice right now is "flash sale" E-mails. And the come-on is "fares as low as $29 one-way." It's not just the newbies--Avelo Airlines and Breeze Airways--doing the $29 bit. I've seen similar promotions from Alaska Airlines and JetBlue Airways, too. Southwest Airlines has been more circumspect and its E-mails have started with $39, $49 or $59 one-way price points. Regardless of the come-on, though, if you're looking for domestic fare sales, the best thing to do is get on the carriers' mailing list. The lowest prices--and I've seen transcontinental flights as low as $99 one-way--usually only last a day or two. Hence the concept of the "flash" sale: Drop the price quickly and dramatically, but only offer it for a day or two before competitors can react. It's a silly game, but airlines think it works, so you'll have to play along with them. You're smart enough to sift through the chaff to find decent fares. Then you can probably wangle a low-cost upgrade to premium economy or first as the airlines offer upsells in the days before your departure.

The lodging industry now is basically one of those glass-half-full affairs. Average nationwide occupancy still lags below 50% in these quiet winter months. And industrywide profit in 2021 was about half of its historical 2019 high, according to lodging statisticians STR. Does that mean nightly rates are half of 2019, too? Not necessarily. I've seen some startling deals--under $100 a night in Manhattan and Chicago, for example--but also rapacious high-season resort rates that are sometimes triple their pre-pandemic standard. The lesson: You will need to surf the rate wave based on time and place, but there are always the hotel chains' quarterly points promotions. Unlike airlines, hotel chains haven't stopped promoting. Whether their points offers match their occupancy rates is something only you can decide. Here's what's on offer early this year.
        Best Western Rewards is courting members planning to claim awards. Between February 7 and May 8, you'll receive a 2,000-point bonus for every Pay With Points booking you make at a Best Western in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean. Advance registration is required.
        Hilton Honors is promoting 2,500 bonus points per stay until May 1. Advance registration is required, of course.
        World of Hyatt is offering 2,022 points for each two qualifying nights until April 20. You'll earn an additional 1,000 points per stay at Hyatt properties in ten U.S. cities. Advance registration required.
        IHG Rewards is offering double points on each stay and those bonus points also count toward elite status. The promotional period extends through March 31. Advance registration is required.
        Marriott Bonvoy is going with a two-pronged offer: 1,000 bonus points and one bonus night of elite-status credit per night. The promotion lasts until May 4, but advance registration by April 20 is required.
        Radisson Rewards is leaning into a multiple-night stay promotion. Three nights stayed before April 30 will earn 30,000 points. Six nights earn 60,000 points and nine nights earn 90,000 points. The promotion, for Radisson Americas members, is valid at hotels in United States, Canada, Latin America or the Caribbean. Advance registration is required.

Air Tahiti Nui has resumed Los Angeles-Paris nonstops that operate as part of its France-Tahiti service. The LAX-Paris segment is selling for $770 roundtrip in coach through March 31 if you book by February 9. The carrier is also selling 6-day/5-night Tahiti vacations from Los Angeles starting at $1,898.
        Accor Hotels in North and Central America, including Hawaii and the Caribbean, are knocking 30% off stays through May 31. The so-called Take Your Time promotion must be booked by March 30. A one-night advance deposit is usually required.
        Play, based in Reykjavik, Iceland, has flown only to Europe during its first seven months in the skies. But the low-cost carrier with the bright red jets promises at least three destinations in the United States this spring. Flights to Baltimore-Washington are due to launch April 20, followed by Boston on May 11 and Stewart/Newburgh on June 9. The all-coach operator flies Airbus A320 and A321s and the goal, of course, is to connect the United States to Europe over Reykjavik. The airline says it will fly to 25 destinations by the summer. More details are here. Just prepare yourself for bold graphics, happy-talk platitudes, lots of fees and very little legroom.