December 15, 2003 -- In our other column today, we mentioned Korean Air's great fare from LA to Tokyo. That's not the only sale out there to Asia, and we wanted to make it clear that now is a good time to buy tickets out East.
For most of the continent, you'll find Korean Air, JAL, Air China, Cathay Pacific and our very own Northwest duking it out on low fares right now. Your best bet is to use your favorite online travel agency, and then to check the individual airlines' sites we list below to see if even lower fares are available.
Fares that we think are worth notice:
To Seoul from LA, San Francisco and Las Vegas: $548 on JAL (www.jal.com). You must buy by Dec. 23 and fly between Jan. 12 and March 18 on Mondays-Thursdays; a six-day stay and seven-day advance purchase are required.
To Beijing from LA: $567 on Korean Air (www.koreanair.com). Buy by Jan. 7 for travel between Jan. 21 and March 31 on Sundays-Thursdays. You don't get frequent flier miles on this fare.
To Singapore from LA: $599 on Cathay Pacific. Buy by Dec. 30 for travel between Feb. 1 and March 31. You must book online at www.cathay-usa.com/dotm/dotm.asp, and you don't get frequent flier miles.
To Hong Kong from LA and San Francisco: $531 on Korean Air. Their $667 fare from Dallas and Chicago is also quite good. Buy by Jan. 7 for travel between Jan. 21 and March 31 on Sundays-Thursdays. You don't get frequent flier miles on this fare.
To Bangkok from San Francisco or LA: $549 on Korean Air. From Dallas and Chicago: $667 on Korean Air. From New York: $670 on JAL. For Korean Air tickets, buy by Jan. 9 for travel between Jan. 21 and March 31 on Sundays-Thursdays. For JAL, you must buy by Dec. 23 and fly between Jan. 12 and March 18 on Mondays-Thursdays; a six-day stay and seven-day advance purchase are required.
Marco! Polo! Found a Cheap Hotel-O!
If Beijing rings your bell, Cathay Pacific has an interesting deal that we're a little ambivalent about. To celebrate their new three-times-weekly service from Hong Kong to Beijing, they're giving anyone who flies to Beijing via Hong Kong three free nights at the Marco Polo Hotel, which Frommer's writers consider a largely undiscovered gem. To get this deal, you must book through a travel agent -- not online or directly through Cathay.
Your trip to Beijing comes with a change of planes and 10-hour layover in Hong Kong, which is long enough to zip into the city and do some sightseeing. If you feel like staying a night or two, Cathay and your travel agent will set you up with highly discounted hotels. For instance, Frommer's says the recommended Empire Hotel usually goes for $180 and up -- if you're flying Cathay and staying one night, you can get a room there for as little as $78 single or $102 double, with rail or bus transfers from the airport included.
The problem, though, is that Cathay isn't offering great fares right now. We found a $781 fare from LAX to Beijing on their Web site, far higher than Korean Air's current $567 sale fare. Since double rooms at the Marco Polo are currently going for $75, Cathay's three free nights are a $225 value, or $112 per person. That doesn't balance out the higher fares.
The reason we mention this deal is that it has very few restrictions. You have to travel by March 3, but that's about it. If your travel agent finds that Cathay has a competitive fare for your dates, make sure to ask about the free hotel nights.
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