Economy Class: Free Rides

In the world of marketing, “free” usually comes with strings. It’s no different in the travel industry, where some free ticket deals are fringed with strings and others are relatively direct.

Here are three current free ticket deals, illustrating a classy, a limited and a complex spin on these popular offers.

British Airways

For true class, you can’t beat British Airways deal for new U.S. Executive Club members. As travelers struggle to get some airlines’ attention, British Airways offers two free round trip tickets if you tell them what you think of their service.

Purchase and fly on one full-fare transatlantic Club World (business class) round trip, or two one-way segments, by Dec. 15 and receive two free Economy tickets for travel within the U.S. or two many destinations worldwide — even Australia.

Register for the promotion at British Airway’s Web site then book your qualifying ticket. You can purchase it through the vendor of your choice. After you complete your qualifying flight, submit your comments on the flight experience to the airline at their web site (see links). In return, you’ll receive two free World Traveller (economy) tickets valid for travel through Dec. 15, 2001. You can use your tickets to fly to any international destination on British Airways or anywhere in the U.S. on the airline’s domestic airline partners — American, America West and Alaska Airlines.

Qualifying fares include D, J, A, F, R classes from any British Airways U.S. gateway. The ticket must be purchased in the U.S., Bermuda, or Bahamas, and paid for in local currency, but travel need not originate in the U.S., Bermuda or Bahamas. Membership in Executive Club USA and pre-registration are required. Only U.S. residents who are not already members of the Executive Club USA are eligible.

You can use this offer one time only. Your feedback must be sent no later than Jan. 15, and can be submitted online or by U.S. Mail sent to British Airways, P.O. Box 1725, Minneapolis, MN 55440-1725; or by fax sent to 800-480-1650. Your two free tickets will be posted to your Executive Club account within two-four weeks.

Spanair Enticements

The limited offer is of the genre that does not apply to a lot of travelers, but is a great deal if you’re one of the lucky one. Children under the age of 15 can fly free from Washington Dulles to Spain when accompanied by an adult on a special $464 round trip Spanair discount fare. Travel through Dec. 19 and from Dec. 25 through March 25.

One child flies for taxes only (about $60) per paying adult. You need a seven-day advance and you can choose from among the following destinations: Alicante, Barcelona, Bilbao, Ibiza, Madrid, Mahon, Malaga, Oviedo, Palma de Mallorca, Santiago, Seville, Valencia and Vigo. For travel to the Canary Islands, an additional $100 is added to the discount fare. A stopover in Madrid is permitted in either direction for an extra $50.

What makes this deal particularly nice is the fact that the purchased ticket is not high-dollar — as is often the case with two-for-one offers. Book through your travel agent or contact Spanair at 888-545-5757.

Northwest Gets Complex

Now for the complex deal which nonetheless can bring you two free short haul domestic round trips. Through Dec. 15, new members of Northwest WorldPerks can earn up to 40,000 bonus miles; current members can earn up to 34,000 miles.

First, earn up to 6,000 bonus miles by joining WorldPerks the program and flying Northwest or any of its 26 global partners by Dec. 15. You earn 1,000 bonus miles for your first one-way or round trip flight and 5,000 for your second round trip — in addition to flight miles earned. This part of the deal is only available to new WorldPerks members.

Next, earn up to 20,000 bonus miles by registering for Sprint services. Check the terms and enroll at Northwest’s Web site or call 877-301-0313.

Next, earn up to 14,000 bonus miles with the WorldPerks Visa Card. Receive 5,000 bonus miles upon approval, and another 5,000 bonus miles after keeping the card for 15 months. Both new and current WorldPerks Visa Card holders can also earn 4,000 bonus miles by charging $1,000 or more on direct Northwest purchases, such as airline tickets, Northwest gift certificates, WorldClubs memberships and through merchandise purchases at Northwest’s WORLDgear stores. You have to register for this one too, by calling 800-508-2000, extension 8472. Apply for the WorldPerks Visa Card at their Web site or call 800-360-2900, extension 895.

You can complete a WorldPerks enrollment form at all domestic Northwest ticket counters, Northwest Airlines’ City Ticket Offices and through flight attendants on board Northwest aircraft. You can also enroll by calling 800-225-2525.

Tom Parsons is editor of Best Fares Magazine.