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British Airways just launched a “London For Free” flight-hotel package deal for the Olympics today where flyers who purchase roundtrip airfare between the US to London before July 25 for travel between July 27 (the start of the Olympics) and September 30, 2012, get 2 free nights in one of six London hotels. Initially this sounded great because hotels in London can be extremely expensive, especially during the Olympics, so this could be a good way to save on some of the costs of a trip, especially if you were going to fly BA anyway. However, as I discovered, airfares on BA and its partners were higher than on competitors, so always be sure to do the math to make sure you’re actually saving money by booking through this promo rather than just buying a flight and hotel separately, or booking a package on a site like Orbitz.
3-star: Royal National, President, Astons Apartments (average rates between $150-250 a night)
4-star: DoubleTree London Westminster, Rembrandt (average rates between $250-350 a night)
The two free hotel nights are based on double occupancy; single occupants are offered one free hotel night. Hotel accommodation must be booked and purchased with British Airways roundtrip published airfare originating in the U.S. during the promotional period, and British Airways’ joint business with American Airlines and Iberia Airlines also counts, so you can fly those airlines as well. Details of the promotion can be found by visiting the airline’s website, www.ba.com/LondonCalling.
You can go about booking one of two ways:
- Choose your flights on ba.com and agree to the terms and conditions
- From the “add to your flight” page choose to add a hotel
- Enter you hotel stay dates
- Select one of our selected participating hotels, continue to the payment screen and complete your booking.
OR if you want to book your hotel for the duration but still get the free nights, you…
- Select the “flight + hotel” button from the “create a trip section”.
- Choose your departure airport and London as the destination city, travel dates need to be within the promotional dates and “Search for flights + hotels”.
- Choose your hotel from the ones available in our offer. You will notice that a line of red text appears by each of our selected hotels to advise you that the up to two free nights has been included in the total price, if you click on the “total price” you will be able to see how much you are saving on your booking.
- When you are happy with your choice continue to the payment screen and complete your booking.
Examples: Worth it?
To see whether this promo was worth it, I tried booking a weekend trip in economy from New York to London on August 10-13 to see what kinds of prices I’d get.
On BA.com, I found airfare for $1,184 per person. Remember, when you pay using your BA Visa, you actually get 10% more off, so these tickets would actually cost $1,065 per person. When I added the option of a hotel for the two nights, the system showed me this:
Two nights at the participating hotels that were available for the dates I wanted were free–saving me nearly $700 at one hotel–and for some reason, it actually brought the total down to about $1,116 per person for the whole trip for a total of $2,230 or so. Not bad.
I checked flights on the same route and dates on Orbitz and found:
Searching for flight + hotel packages on Orbitz on those same dates, the cost came in at $2,300+. For the Rembrandt Hotel, which is one of the BA participating hotels, a package with flight and 2 nights would be $2,600 as opposed to $2,260 using the BA promo.
So if you were thinking of flying British Airways anyway, this could be a great promo to save you several hundred dollars on a room, especially because you can book flights for longer stays but just book the 2 free nights through the promo and then use points (or pay) to stay elsewhere during your trip.
One warning, though: When I looked at just flights from JFK-LHR on different dates, I noticed that BA (and its partners) were charging closer to $1,770 for coach tickets, whereas I could find seats on Delta flights for $1,299, almost $500 less, so in that case, booking on BA would negate any savings I would have gotten on the hotel!
As always, crunch the numbers and see what makes sense for you. For your dates, you might find it’s cheaper just to book flights and hotels separately if British Airways prices are extraordinarily high, like in the last example.
That said, if airfares are in the same ballpark, getting two free hotel nights in a London hotel could end up saving you hundreds of dollars on your trip, so keep this promotion in mind. Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.
Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.