Is this a scam? Are airlines really giving away “free” flights?

Dick Jordan became suspicious when he received the first postcard offering “two round-trip airfares to anywhere Southwest flies.” He’s a loyal Southwest customer, but this seemed too good to be true – and he thinks it might be a scam.

After Jordan received the second postcard offering the same deal, he decided to contact Southwest Airlines. Maybe they were rewarding him for his continued business? After all, the postcard had the trademarked logo on it, so it seemed legit.

Instead of dialing the “888” number on the card, Jordan contacted a customer service representative at Southwest, who quickly informed him that this was not a deal offered by Southwest Airlines.

“Southwest Airlines is in no way associated with this company or this offer,” the representative told him. “It is unfortunate that this third party is using the Southwest brand without our permission to take advantage of Customers for their benefit.”

After further research, I found out that almost every major airline has been featured on this postcard and that thousands of others have received them. All point back to the same address in West Palm Beach, Fla. A contact number is listed, but it appears to change frequently. A variation of the offer comes from another company called “Travel America.” Here’s the backside of the postcard.

There is also small print at the bottom of some of the postcards which reads:

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. Please call for details. CST 2105560-40.

Has anyone actually received this offer and taken advantage of it? The fact that Southwest denies it’s involved in any way makes travelers like Jordan suspicious. And with good reason.

It’s possible that this is a legitimate offer, but one that’s presented in a confusing way. Then again, it’s also possible that the folks behind these postcards are scam artists leveraging these airline brands illegally.

But which is it?

(Photo: Lorenia/Flickr)