January 30, 2004 -- New low fares to London seem to be rolling in every couple of days. The latest batch comes from British Airways, which is using their massive muscle to not only offer roundtrips from as little as $198, they'll also throw in some highly discounted hotel rooms at $50 a night or less.
The deal is this: you must book by Feb. 5 and fly either between Feb.3 and April 4 or Oct. 28 and Dec. 17 of this year. The lowest fares are for Mon-Wed flights (other flights are $30 more each way.) You must stay a Saturday night, but no more than 11 months. (That makes this a great fare for long trips; many low fares are restricted to 30- or 90-day journeys.) The fares include (before the usual $120 or so in tax):
- From New York: $198
- From Boston: $226
- From Baltimore and DC: $266
- From Chicago: $316
- From Atlanta: $356
- From Miami, Tampa, Orlando, LA and SF: $376
- From Houston and Dallas: $386
These are good fares, but there's some stiff competition out there. 1800FlyEurope.com, for instance, has fares as low as $179 round-trip from New York, Boston and Washington and $309 from the West Coast, and bmi (www.flybmi.com) had a sale last week with $199 fares from Chicago and DC. Lufthansa (www.lufthansa.com), meanwhile, is matching BA's fare from LA and Atlanta. (Lufthansa flights aren't nonstop to London, though.)
BA's Big Prize: A Cheap Room
The major advantage to this BA deal, though, is a cheap hotel. For stays before Sept. 30, BA can get you a $25 per person rate (so, $25 for a single room or $50 for a double) at the two-and-a-half star Royal National, the three-star St. Giles, or the Thistle Kensington Gardens, the Gresham Hyde Park and De Vere Cavendish (all four-star hotels). Obviously, the better hotels will sell out first. Alas, you only get one cheap night if you're traveling alone, or two if you're a couple.
The precipitous fall of the dollar has made London hotels even more terrifyingly expensive than they used to be, so consider this deal closely. Two and three-star hotels in London on discounters like Expedia are $90 and up per night for a double. On hyper-discounter Priceline, four-star hotels in London typically go for $85 and up, although two-star hotels at $60 are not unheard of, according to Priceline watchdog site BiddingForTravel.com.
Of the hotels they offer, we'd pick the De Vere Cavendish if given the choice. The others are large, older hotels with very varied levels of cleanliness and quality. Essentially, you're getting what you pay for here -- but you're getting a place to sleep in central London for $50 or less, and that is definitely something to cheer about.
The best competition we could find for this combination is OffPeakTraveler.com's six-night London package (www.offpeaktraveler.com/index.php?m1=1&m2=37&city=2), which puts you in the barn-like Euston Square hotel at the equivalent of $50 or so per night. But a combination of this BA deal and smart shopping elsewhere could land you in much better lodgings for only a little more.
If you're interested, book now at www.britishairways.com/travel/offerus006/public/en_us.