How much would you pay for unlimited first-class travel for the rest of your life?
No, this isn’t a rhetorical question. And yes, it is possible, (or rather, it was).
Steve Rothstein, Mark Cuban, Jacques Vroom, are only a few of the timely opportunists who got their hands on the “unlimited AAirpass” granting them unlimited first-class travel for life. And the rest is history.
It all started in the early ‘80s when American Airlines got hit with the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 — followed with a painful US$76 million in losses.
Their solution? Raise capital from their wealthiest customers by offering them the “ultimate travel perk”.
For just US$250,000, you could buy an unlimited AAirpass; and for an additional US$150,000 you could buy a second one. It was supposed to guarantee unlimited first-class travel for life. There were no restrictions. You could take as many flights as you wanted, to anywhere you wanted.
Steve Rothstein did not take those unconditional terms lightly. Within 25 years, Rothstein clocked more than 10 million miles and 10,000 flights—sometimes booking over two dozen international flights per month. Over the years, he used his power to fly hopeless strangers back home, a friend to the Louvre, and a priest to Rome to meet the pope. He even flew to Providence few times a year, just for a baloney-and-Swiss-cheese melt.
Over in Texas, Jacques Vroom also decided to shell out on the AAirpass and companion pass, which he used to catch all his son’s football games on the East Coast, pop over to Europe for a quick lunch with a friend, and even fly his daughter to Buenos Aires for a day, to help with a middle school project on South American culture.
The best (or worst) part? Rothstein and Vroom were just one of the many who took full advantage of the contractual promise of ‘unlimited’ and ‘for life’ travel.
That is until American Airlines realized that the AAirpass was being used so profusely, that it ended up costing them millions more in lost revenue.
From then on, American Airlines not only revoked a few passholders, including Rothstein and Vroom upon finding ‘legal reasons’, but also started charging more for the unlimited AAirpass. By 1990, it cost nearly $600,000 for two passes; which then went up to $1.01 million by the time they decided to end the program altogether.
Neither Rothstein nor Vroom have recovered their AAirpass, including a third customer who also had his pass revoked; but the other 25, including Mark Cuban, still hold onto a valid AAirpass: the greatest travel deal in all of history.
And sure, free travel is great, but visa-free travel is just as cool.
Unlock all your visa-free destinations when you improve your Global Mobility Score, by adding a second or third passport. Because how can you even make the most of free travel, if you can’t access it freely anyways?
Don’t tell us, we didn’t tell you; but this may just be the next greatest travel deal in history.