Whatever this year’s advances in neck pillows, nothing can really compete with the gift of travel itself. If you’re stumped as to what to give the globetrotter on your list this holiday, look away from the gadgets and accessories and instead consider an airline gift card.
Not every airline offers them but many do, in one form or another. Load up with the dollar amount of your choosing, which the receiver can then put towards future travel.
Of course, some cards are easier to use than others. Users should be mindful of expiration dates, if there is one, along with any fees that may apply.
As for you, the gift-giver, it doesn’t get any easier than a gift card. Anyone terrible at wrapping can, at the very least, handle sealing an envelope, and in many cases the airline takes care of even that, sometimes offering overnight delivery. Or opt for an e-voucher to be emailed and spare some trees.
Below are some of the better options for airline gift cards currently available.
Point anywhere on the globe and chances are that Delta and its vast partner network can land you there, or at least somewhere very close. Gift cards can be purchased at Delta.com in $5 increments for as little as $50 to a maximum of $5,000. Redeem online, over the telephone, or in person at the airport. Gift cards can only be used towards airfares and not to pay for baggage fees, in-flight purchases, upgrades, or any other extras. Card balances never expire.
Buyers can choose to send an eGift card by email or opt for a physical version to be shipped out via UPS. Personalized messages to the recipient can be included in either format.
For the wishy-washy traveler who constantly changes plans, Southwest offers the most flexibility of any gift card. Tickets that can easily be changed for free. Just pay the fare difference, if there is one. And if for whatever reason the ticket holder is unable to make the trip, the cost of the ticket can be rebanked for use towards a future flight, no biggie. Oh, and don’t forget, Southwest still allows passengers to check two bags for free, unlike other carriers. Something to consider if your receiver tends to overpack.
The only downside? Some may find its international options a tad limited, with just 14 destinations throughout Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America.
Southwest gift card values range from $10 to $1,000. Choose an e-card or physical gift card to be overnighted. Cards never expire and may be booked at Southwest.com, via telephone, or at Amazon for lower denominations.
Being gifted a trip to Hawaii is pretty much the best possible outcome of anyone’s holiday. Hawaiian e-gift and gift cards can be purchased online or at certain grocery stores (Hawaii Foodland, Sack N Save, and Foodland Farms) in amounts as low as $50 and no higher than $2,000. Card amounts must be used for airfare only and can’t be applied to lei greetings, trip insurance, travel packages, or any ancillary services.
It’s hard to imagine anyone not using this as soon as possible but in the event that the receiver drags his or her feet in booking, this card will never expire. And in the off chance your recipient doesn’t actually want to go to Hawaii, remind them that Hawaiian also flies nonstop to Australia, New Zealand, American Samoa, Tahiti, Japan, South Korea, and China.
With destinations throughout Mexico and Hawaii, Alaska's route map is probably more extensive than you think. Alaska’s gift certificates range from $25 to $500. Include a personal message and send via email or print out at home. Alaska certificates don’t expire and any remaining balance can be put towards future bookings.
Certificates can be booked at AlaskaAir.com.
With hundreds of destinations served by American, American Eagle, and oneworld partners, your card receiver may have a tough time deciding. Send by email or choose a plastic card to be sent in the mail. If opting for a plastic card, try and get your order in by December 17, to ensure it arrives by Christmas.
Choose an amount from $50 to $1,500. Cards never expire and there are no fees associated with booking, no matter how late the user is in redeeming it. Book at Giftcards.aa.com.
Of the current crop of low cost transatlantic carriers, Norwegian offers the best value with consistently low international fares for nonstop flights to Scandinavia and plenty of other major cities throughout Europe. Gift cards can be purchased in CashPoint increments ranging from 500 (about $60) to 5,000 (about $590), with its mid-tier 2,000 CashPoint (or $235) option being the most popular.
Cards are sent by email and expire exactly one year from the purchase date. Purchase at Norwegian.com/gift-card.
Aside from hopping a flight to London or elsewhere in the UK, BA eVoucher recipients can choose from over 200 international destinations.
Flight vouchers are valid for flights only and cannot be used to book rental cars, hotels, or other extras. Any unused amount will be reissued in the form of another voucher, though pay attention to expiration dates.
Voucher-holders should also be aware that there are restrictions for flights originating in certain countries in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. If your traveler is beginning their journey from any of these areas, call BA directly. Book at BritishAirways.com.
Gift vouchers from Irish flag carrier Aer Lingus can be purchased in denominations of up to $500 which would more than cover a cheap roundtrip sale fare. Aer Lingus regularly discounts fares not just to Ireland but along its entire network which includes most of Europe. Best of all, vouchers never expire! Purchase at Aerlingus.com.
Above image by Suphaksorn Thongwongboo via Shutterstock