Seniors surprised free airline tickets are real

Like many seniors, Albert and Mary Dailey of Carson City get so many allegedly "free" offers over the telephone that they just tune them out.

So when calls about free airline tickets came recently, they didn't bother telling each other about it. Just another telemarketer trying to get something out of them, they said each concluded.

So Albert and Mary, reached at work at Carson-Tahoe Hospital, were surprised to learn the free Southwest Airlines tickets were for real.

"I was totally shocked, cause you hear so many things over the phone," Mary said after she had a couple of hours to think about it.

Albert said he remembers getting the calls about airline tickets, but just told the callers he wasn't interested, as he does to the frequent telephone solicitations with offers that sound too good to be true.

The complimentary tickets are among 15 being given by Southwest to Northern Nevada seniors, part of the airlines 20-year-old "Home for the Holidays" program.

Southwest has given thousands of tickets to seniors in the 54 cities where it operates during the past two decades, allowing them to reunite with families and friends during the holiday season.

"You mean this is for real?" Mary asked when a reporter called her at work and told her the couple was on the list to receive the tickets. "I had no idea anything like this was going on."

Once she got home, Mary and Jack decided they must have been nominated for the program by their daughter in Texas, Sherrie Nelson. It's been more than three years since Sherrie and her family have seen the Dailys. At press time, the Dailys had yet to call her, but were starting to plan for a visit to Austin.

"My schedule there at the hospital - I've worked there 18 years - is already made out through the holidays, so I figure will make it after the first of the year," Mary said.

She said her daughter, a Texas state employee, and son-in-law Roger Nelson, a fourth grade teacher, have five children - Chrissy, Joi, Joleen, Robert and Jamie. A trip to Austin would be a first for Mary, she said.

The Dailys missed out on a reception at the Capitol on Friday afternoon, where Gov. Kenny Guinn presented the tickets to several of the other recipients, all from Washoe County. Washoe County Senior Services has worked with Southwest in running the program in the Reno area.

Camille Smith, Southwest's vice president of special marketing who has nurtured the program during the last 20 years, came to the Capitol to assist in the presentations.

Smith noted that one of the seniors present would be able to make his first trip back home since 1954. Benjamin Kerinsky will be going to Long Island, N.Y., to visit his brother.

Guinn handed out tickets to each of the seniors in turn, while Smith presented travel bags filled with gifts for the families and friends on the other end.

When Elizabeth Prince, who is going to Jacksonville, Fla., got her ticket, she must have something about dancing - Guinn did a quick swing turn or two with her.


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