The Unlimited Travel American Airlines Ticket

Grace Higgins | April 23rd, 2019

In 1987, Steve Rothstein bought what was known at the time as the American Airlines golden ticket. An airline ticket that gave him access to a lifetime of unlimited travel. And he used it to the max, clocking over 10 million flights and 10,000 flights.

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He even used this superpower to help complete strangers fly when needed. He was able to fly a close friend to the Louvre and sent a priest he met to Rome so that he could finally meet the pope. Sometimes he simply hopped over to another city for a baseball game, or a couple of times just to buy a sandwich. And that meant that really everyone on the airlines knew his name, even American Airlines CEO knew his name.

Rothstein said he became a sort of legend, a hero of the airlines, he would just show up and automatically get a seat no matter what. But in 2008, the tables turned and the airlines accused him of fraud. This led to them snatching away his unlimited access boarding pass.

This was because American Airlines was trying to figure out a way to terminate their AAirpass completely which was costing the company millions of dollars every year, even though there were only around 66 pass holders around the world.

Rothstein bought the AAirpass for $250,000 and also a companion ticket for $150,000. At the time he was living in Chicago and pursuing a career in investment banking, it seemed like a great deal. He said he loved it, he could just go someplace whenever he felt like it without having to worry about it – just make the reservation and go.

In 2004 he traveled 18 times, going to Nova Scotia, Maine, London, Los Angeles, and Denver. As he would rarely know who his companion would be until the last moment due to business trips, he would book his guest under fake names such as “Bag Rothstein” – which was later why the airlines accused him of fraud.

During his time, he helped many lost travelers who he found crying at the airport due to flight problems. Rothstein felt that due to his companion ticket, the acts of kindness were just things he had to do as a decent human being. Rothstein’s pass is currently terminated, but he is fighting this decision and has filed a lawsuit against them.

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