Consumer Protection Commissioner William M. Rubenstein is alerting consumers today about postcards that seemingly offer free air travel getaways, that have been landing in Connecticut consumers’ mailboxes recently.
The promotional postcards (samples attached) include images of airplanes and feature in large type the names and identifiable logos of Delta or Southwest Airlines, yet these post cards are from travel companies that have no relationship to the airlines. The cards advise recipients that they’ve been “selected” to receive “2 Round Trip Airfares” and hotel lodging, and direct them to a toll-free number for more information. In states where similar promotions have been offered, consumer complaints indicate that the offer is really a gimmick to get recipients to sign up for a pricey travel club or website subscription.
“We are concerned that these promotions could lure consumers into believing that they are going to receive a free trip and hotel stay with no strings attached, when apparently, that is not the case at all,” Rubenstein said. “The fine print on the cards indicates that “certain restrictions apply,” and according to complaints from consumers in other states where these promotions have run, the conditions often become clear when it’s too late to change one’s mind.”
One promotional postcard received by a Connecticut consumer last week featured the Southwest name, logo and an airplane photo, and advised the recipient that they were selected to receive two Southwest tickets and a “BONUS 3 DAY, 2 NIGHT HOTEL STAY.” The card directed the recipient to a toll-free number for more information.
Upon calling, the recipient was told they had reached Berkshire Concepts, a new travel agency in the area. The caller was then offered airline tickets on Delta or Southwest for two people, valid for one year, and a bonus hotel stay. However, in order to “qualify,” the caller was required to answer questions about their income, marital status and age, and was told they must attend a 90 minute presentation at a hotel location in Windsor, Connecticut, at selected times this week or next at the Hyatt Summerfield Suites in Windsor.
Consumers in other states who have attended similarly-promoted presentations report that they encountered hard-sell tactics encouraging them to join a travel club costing thousands of dollars, and that if and when they finally received their air travel voucher, they learned that they had to pay taxes and fees of $100 per person or more. In addition, many travel dates were blocked, and travel “restrictions” included a requirement to fly out on a Monday or Tuesday and return that Thursday.
The Department also learned of similar cards being received in Connecticut featuring the Delta name, and offering a similar deal and instructions, including attending a presentation at selected times this week or next at the same hotel in Windsor.
“We have confirmed that Southwest and Delta airlines are not affiliated whatsoever with these offers,” Rubenstein said. “We are alerting consumers that these offers require careful scrutiny and consideration.”
The Department of Consumer Protection urges any consumer who has received a promotional air travel postcard and is thinking about attending an informational presentation to be wary and avoid signing up for a travel club they do not want or cannot afford.
“As always, if a deal seems too good to be true, it’s usually not true,” Commissioner Rubenstein said.
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