Consumer Alert: “Southwest Escape” Offer Grounded

November 2, 2011

in Consumer Alerts

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Southwest Escape Postcard Revised The “snail mail” which the U.S. Postal Service delivers to me consists mainly of advertisements and catalogs that quickly find their way into the paper recycling bin that the garbage company collects each week.  But unlike the envelopes stuffed with most of that not-so-informative information, the ones related to travel usually get opened and the contents given at least a quick scan before being tossed out.

Earlier this year, a postcard (pictured at left) promoting a air fare-hotel package landed on my desk.  On its face was a photo of an aircraft flying through clouds, the words “Fly Away Escape – Southwest Airlines” and what appeared to be the Southwest Airlines Website logo.  The back of the postcard said:  “Congratulations.  You have been selected to receive 2 Round Trip Airfares to anywhere Southwest flies.  CALL WITHIN 48 HOURS.  YOU WILL ALSO RECEIVE AS A BONUS 3 DAY 2 NIGHT HOTEL STAY!”

Since I had no immediate desire to travel to any destination served by Southwest, the postcard spiraled down into my wastepaper basket, and the offer printed on its reverse side vanished from my brain’s radar screen.  But when the same postcard touched down in my office a couple of months later, I said to myself: “Is Southwest really rewarding me for being a loyal customer, or is this offer just too good to be true?”

Southwest’s flights from the San Francisco Bay Area don’t often go to places where I am headed. So although I belong to the airline’s frequent flyer program, I have never flown often enough to earn a free seat, let alone a deal like the one touted by this postcard.  And since Southwest knows my e-mail address, why would it have mailed this offer to me?

I realized that the only way to verify that the offer was legitimate would be to contact Southwest directly, rather than phone the “888” number on the postcard.  And as a journalist, I knew that the best way to find out would be to contact the airline’s press relations department.

After an exchange of e-mails, Southwest confirmed that a third-party had made unauthorized use of the carrier’s name and logo to pitch this trip to me.  Southwest contacted the company that had sent me the postcard and convinced it to cease such promotional offers.  The airline has a team that works to protect its customers from such marketing ploys.

If you received this “Fly Away Escape” promotion, write a comment to this post and let me know what action you took, and what happened if you actually accepted the offer.  I’ll pass on your remarks to my contact at Southwest Airlines.

(Editor’s Note: This story has been linked to in posts on Consumerist and MoneyTalksNews Websites).

July 14, 2013 Update: A comment posted by a Tales Told From The Road reader has led us to this April 30, 2013 Better Business Bureau report on “travel clubs” which often utilize this form of postcard promotion.

We strongly recommend that our readers who have received one of these “free offer” postcards (or a letter with a similar offer) review “Travel Club Schemes: Insider The Promotion Commotion” issued by the Dallas and Northeast Texas office of the BBB. The BBB “Consumer News and Opinion Blog” is another resource for checking out whether any offer, promotion, or business is “on the up and up.”

Consumer advocate, Christopher Elliott, has dealt with complaints about travel clubs for two decades. The fact that Tales Told From The Road readers have viewed our story over 25,000 times, and that they continue to post comments indicating that these travel promotion offers are still being mailed to them, is a strong indication that those promotions are not likely to end anytime in the near future. 

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{ 529 comments… read them below or add one }

Dick Jordan
Twitter:
July 14, 2013 at 11:05 AM

Thank you for your comment, Lisa.

What you received looks like a new variation on what’s become a very familiar theme to me over the last year and a half since I first wrote this “Fly Away Escape” story.

I hadn’t previously seen or heard of a such a promotional letter signed with a person’s name and job title. So I did a Google search on that name and title, which ultimately led me to this April 30, 2013 report from the Better Business Bureau about “travel clubs.”
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RC August 22, 2013 at 3:25 PM

Just received the same card, 8-22-2013. Postage paid from West Palm Beach, FL. Permit 1002. Contact #877-705-9742 RSVP 5840

Rob Houck August 26, 2013 at 6:44 PM

My wife got one today. It disclames sponsorship by Southwest, Jet Blue, US Airways, Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt and Expedia. But it uses the “Expedia” name and does not disclaim a connection there. Into the trash…..

steve August 27, 2013 at 1:59 PM

Now they are using American Airlines. Same phone number.

Eric September 3, 2013 at 9:46 PM

Received today in mail. Same as others, Expedia on top of card, flight, hotel and $50 Expedia hotel cash card. Throwing in garbage.

Eddie October 2, 2013 at 11:36 AM

I’ve posted this on several websites today. We as consumers have to stick together. That is why I appreciate websites like this one that provide information on scams like this…

I too received one of these cards. The one I received had Expedia on the top with the image of a plane. It came from West Palm Beach FL Permit 1002.

Says you will receive 2 round-trip airline tickets on Southwest, Jet Blue, US Airways, or a comparable airline, plus a 3-day/2night weekend getaway at a hotel such as Marriott, Hyatt and Hilton. Promo code was 3739.

This company’s name is Island Rays. This seminar takes place in Richmond, VA at the following address…

4240 Dominon Blvd. Glen Allen, VA 23063.

The number is 1-877-283-6156.

I did call and they ask you like 7 questions and then tell you that you qualify for the presentation. “Its not a timeshare presentation” is what the girl said. I figured I would sign up to go so I gave them my address and they had my cell phone from when i called.

After I signed up, she said we would get our free gifts after the seminar and we would have to pay the taxes and other fees associated with flights and hotels.

After I hung up the phone, I got on google and found this site and a few others.

Thank you to everyone who posted!!

I called back and told them I wasn’t going to be able to make it and they kept talking over me saying all I have to do is sit through a seminar. I finally told them no and then they said “fine” and hung up. So while I didn’t give out any money, I still gave them my home address so I hope all i get out of this is junk mail. I can live with that.

Dick Jordan
Twitter:
October 3, 2013 at 3:49 PM

Thanks for your detailed comment and feedback on what you learned when you followed up on the offer.

I’m glad you found our story useful in determining whether to accept the offer which undoubtedly was based on you joining a travel club.
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Betty December 4, 2013 at 10:22 AM

I got this same offer yesterday, but not under the Expedia name, but ORBITZ! Same offer, but before I found this website, I did try the telephone # which was 1-855-571-8893. Was asked to hold, I did so, and about 60 seconds later, a dial tone came on. THANK you for this site! I frequent Southwest and have been pleased every trip, so I am kind of disappointed… but we have a trip scheduled in February so I’ll go back to looking forward to that one.

BP- Tennessee

Wesley December 10, 2013 at 11:46 AM

My wife just got one today 10 Dec 2013- featuring ORBITZ:
Congratulations! You will receive 2 round-trip airline tickets on Southwest, Jet Blue, US Airways, or a comparable airline, plus a 3-day/2night weekend getaway at a hotel such as Marriott, Hyatt and Hilton. RSVP 1207.
Its now shreded…

Lindy December 10, 2013 at 3:54 PM

I got this postcard today similar to the one posted in the above article. But, it was from ORBITZ and was postmarked fro Dallax, TX, Permit 3140. It reads: Congratulations! You will receive 2 round-trip airline tickets on Southwest, Jet Blue, United or a comparable airline, plus a 3-day / 2-night getaway at a hotel such as Marriott, Hyatt and Hilton. If I call within 48 hours I will receive a $25 hotel cash gift card. The phone number is 1-855-571-8893. There is a small disclaimer on the backside of the card in the lower left corner that reads: Certain restrictions apply. Call for Details. Taxes & registration fees are the responsibility of the recipient. This promotion not sponsored by SouthWest Airlines, jetblue, United Airlines, Marriot, Hyatt, Hilton, Orbitz. Not applicable to Alaska or Hawaii

Johnnie Wright January 7, 2014 at 2:24 PM

I got one today from “Orbitz”. I immediately suspected it was a sham and Googled for incidents. I came across this site and was not surprised to see that many of us have received variations of this same shameful sham. Thanks for keeping us consumers aware of the wolves out there.

Robert January 11, 2014 at 10:17 AM

I just received the Frontier Fly Away Promotion card in the mail today. On the reverse

Congratulations we’ve selected you to receive 2 round trip airfares to anywhere in the contiguous United States – good for the next 12 months!

Call within 48 hours and receive a 3 day and 2 night hotel stay at major brands.

To claim this special offer, simply call and mention your promo code

Call Toll Free CALL 1-888-598-2322 PROMO CODE xxxxx

All trademarks and service marks are the property of their respective owners. Offer void where prohibited by law. All components of this offer are fulfilled by a third party. Certain restrictions apply. Recipient responsible for all applicable taxes and fees. Please call for details.

Whitney January 13, 2014 at 7:47 AM

Just received it January 2014. Threw it away.

Bill Parsons January 27, 2014 at 7:25 PM

Got it in the mail today. Seems to good to be true. Googled it, found this and as suspected it is. Wasn’t interested, more curious as to where it was going. It’ll end up in the trash as the others have.

Dick Jordan
Twitter:
January 27, 2014 at 7:30 PM

Thanks for your comment. It amazes me that over two years after I first wrote about this type of “travel club,” these offers still are showing up in people’s mailboxes.

Inez January 28, 2014 at 7:35 AM

Got this last week from Frontier. Front of postcard has a stamped Fly Away Promotion on lower right, with the photo of the airplayne and FlyFrontier.Com. This card says presorting is from Las Vegas, NV. Toll free number is same as above – 1-888-598-2322 with a promo code.

Kurt January 29, 2014 at 8:52 AM

Just this week received the same “fly away promotion” from Frontier Airlines. As I normally do with too-good-to-be-true offers I conulted the internet to see if others received a similar offer and what the results were. I have not called the 888-598-2322 number as I don’t want to give my phone number to any more of these folks. Thanks for your discussion.

Tim Sanders February 3, 2014 at 12:11 PM

Received the same letter today that appears to be from Expedia until you look at the small print on the back.

Amanda February 5, 2014 at 10:07 PM

I got one of these today. It said I would receive 2 round trip tickets on Southwest, Jet Blue, United, or a comparable airline, plus a 3-day/2-night getaway at a hotel such as Marriott, Hyatt, or Hilton if I called 1-855-571-8893.

The card also had Expedia, Hotels.com, and Kayak logos on it.

I figured it was probably a scam, so I’ll be tossing it in the trash.
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Deb February 7, 2014 at 11:36 AM

Received the Expedia letter this past week. I figured it was a sales technique, but was curious and googled and found this site. Thanks so much! I hadn’t noticed the small print on the back bottom until I read the previous post!!

Mark February 12, 2014 at 7:40 AM

Now it’s Priceline.com partner network. All the same stuff Southwest JetBlue Airtran Marriot Hyatt Hilton Bonus PricelineHotel Cash Card $100 if you call in 48hours.

Jeff February 19, 2014 at 7:38 AM

Got on Feb 18, 2014 the exact same offer as Lindy posted on Dec 10. 2013. Only the phone number is one digit higher.

Darlene Rose February 26, 2014 at 6:05 AM

Looks like this one is cycling around again. We received one for “Southwest Florida Celebration” on 02/25/14, featuring the airplane on the front and the same phone number on the back. Offer is SUPPOSEDLY for 2 round trip airfares to anywhere in the contiguous United Stated – AND – Call within 48 hours and receive a 3 day 2 night hotel stay at Hilton brand hotels. US Postage PAID Permit No. 210 18640 – and the card about to be fed to the shredder. Thanks to all whom have posted here!

D&R March 4, 2014 at 4:35 AM

Got ours yesterday, Monday 3/3/14. Took pic of front & back. Posted to FB. Linked Southwest to the post.
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10201403022949237&set=a.1060125235081.2008907.1584420770&type=1&theater

The upsetting thing is it’s scumbag schemes like this, which I think should fall under the “fraud” umbrella, that causes rise in airline fare. Southwest has to pay their legal department to tackle these guys EVERY SINGLE TIME.

Jennifer Haley March 24, 2014 at 8:08 PM

I received a letter today with Southwest, Jet Blue, and US Airways in the letter head. 2 free tickets, 2 night stay at any Marriott. One fishy aspect was that it had the wrong middle initial which is only found on my credit report (wrong on there too). Also, having worked in banking I’m familiar with scams. It’s true that if it’s too good to be true it’s no good! But curiosity won me over so I googled it, and here we are!

Egle Januleviciute March 26, 2014 at 9:53 AM

I just received “Southwest Florida Celebration” card yesterday with promotional stay in Hilton brand hotels. Luckily, I googled it instead of calling their 866 number. Thank you for this post and saving my time!

Dale April 8, 2014 at 9:44 AM

They are at it again!
04-05-2014 just got a postcard; on the front of the card SOUTHWEST CELEBRATION, picture of a jet in the air but no logo. Humm

Back side of the card; presort first class U.S. Postage Paid permit No. 210 18640
“In Celebration of 2014, we’ve selected you to receive 2 round trip airfares anywhere in the contiguous United States! Call within 48 hours and receive a 3 day 2 night hotel stay at Hilton or similar brand hotels.
To Claim this special offer, simply call 1 888 598 2322 Mon 7 am – 8 pm Sat 7 am to 4 pm Promo code OR0404″
My Name and address
Small Print is a third part disclaimer I garbage canned it after I researched
it. Rarely do you get something for nothing

Bill April 14, 2014 at 5:43 PM

Card came today, addressed to me or current resident. Picture a bit different and entitled Southwest Celebration. Send using USPS permit 2736 in Las Vegas. Probably a promo for a ‘time share’.

I NEVER respond to these.

Jan April 18, 2014 at 8:47 AM

Mine’s identical to Dale’s 04/08/2014 post, except that my Promo Code is COC0411, so I’m guessing the last 4 digits are their date sent. This is my first experience with a scammer notifying me that I’ve won something from a trusted vendor, so I am grateful for your hard work fighting these scams and sharing to inform the rest of us.

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