Buy the Friendly Skies

Brilliant idea? Hustle? Yes? Looks like Southwest Airlines is selling gift cards this holiday season. Yup, just like Target, Starbucks, you name it -- a little plastic gift card with a relatively large price tag, which you can pick up on your way out of Kmart and Wal-Mart. (It's also one hell of an impulse item, come to think of it: You go in for a four-pack of undies and some paper towels, and next thing you know you're on a plane to a faraway destination with a forged passport, a new name and $23,488 in undeposited cash you took from the company's personal-ad account...or something.)

"It's a great new business for us," Southwest's online marketing products manager Sally Harbeson tells the Boston Herald this morning. "A lot of people were wanting to give a gift of a destination, and it's just a much more simple way of doing this." Southwest actually started selling the gift cards online a year ago; only recently did they become available at the check-out counter of your neighborhood Big Box retailer. American's doing the same thing for a while, offering $50 and $100 gift cards at CVS, Lowes and Wal-Mart, among other retailers. And it's genius, because, like the airline industry consultant says in the Herald, a lot of people don't even redeem those cards. I'm getting all my friends Legend Airlines gift cards this holiday season. Happy Hanukkah, suckers. --Robert Wilonsky