By Joe Brancatelli
June 17, 2008 --It looks as if Continental Airlines has already loaded some of its Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year's business-class fare sale. Time to rejoice. Time to pounce.

I'm seeing nonrefundable business-class sale fares in the R class as low as $1,250 roundtrip for flights from Continental's Newark hub to locations such as London, Dublin, Madrid, Amsterdam, Glasgow and even Rome. That is the all-in price, including taxes, fuel fees and surcharges. Needless to say, given our current realities, these fares are beyond astounding. They are insane--and within a hundred or so dollars of the price during last year's Thanksgiving/Christmas sale.

Usually these end-of-year super-bargain fares--from about $1,250 to $1,700 roundtrip from Newark and a few hundred more from elsewhere around Continental's system--don't load until around Labor Day. (The details from last year's end-of-season sale are here.) I have no idea why prices this low are available now. And, you know what? Now is not the time to speculate. Just buy.

I don't even have the effective dates on the sale or know whether these sale-level fares are available for all of Continental's European destinations. I've got calls into Continental to check, but I wanted to alert you as soon as possible. I'll post updates as I get them

If you're looking for a winter holiday in Europe this year somewhere between Thanksgiving and New Year's, I urge you to surf over to Continental.com and start pecking around. Based on the previous iterations of this sale, my guess is that these fares are available from around the weekend before Thanksgiving to the Tuesday after and then again from the about 19th of December to about January 4, 2009. To find the fares, make sure you check the "find lower fares +/- 3 days" box. Also be sure to click the Business/Businessfirst and search by price radio buttons. Look for prices in R class and a yellow star.

Again, based on previous years' sales, the fares for the narrow Thanksgiving weekend period are several hundred dollars lower than the fares for the much wider pre-Christmas to post-New Year's window.

Another caveat: This amazingly early sale is clearly limited and offers only a few seats per flight. But you're hearing about this first and, if you want to travel in style really cheap at the end of the year, do the homework and the legwork now.

For the Thanksgiving Day period: The specific fare code is RR3SIE. The change fee is $300. Tickets are nonrefundable and must be purchased on the Net. There are no minimum-stay restrictions. Outbound travel is permitted November 23-29. Return travel is permitted November 27-29 and December 2-4.

For the Christmas/New Year's period: The specific fare code is RR4SIE. The change fee is $300. Tickets are nonrefundable and must be purchased on the Net. There are no minimum-stay restrictions. Outbound travel: December 20-January 2. Return travel: December 25-January 9.

Here are the cities covered by the sale. All are served nonstop from the airline's Newark hub. A few are also served nonstop from Continental's Cleveland and Houston hubs. The cities: Amsterdam; Barcelona and Madrid, Spain; Belfast; Berlin, Frankfurt and Hamburg, Germany; Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester and London, England; Brussels; Copenhagen; Dublin and Shannon, Ireland; Edinburgh and Glasgow, Scotland; Geneva and Zurich, Switzerland; Lisbon; Milan and Rome; Oslo; Paris; and Stockholm.
ABOUT JOE BRANCATELLI Joe Brancatelli is a publication consultant, which means that he helps media companies start, fix and reposition newspapers, magazines and Web sites. He's also the former executive editor of Frequent Flyer and has been a consultant to or columnist for more business-travel and leisure-travel publishing operations than he can remember. He started his career as a business journalist and created JoeSentMe in the dark days after 9/11 while he was stranded in a hotel room in San Francisco. He lives on the Hudson River in the tourist town of Cold Spring.

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This column is Copyright 2008 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2008 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.