My dad was one of the only people with a golden ticket on American Airlines. This is the true story of having and losing a superpower
On 10 March 2009, a case was filed in the US circuit court for the northern district of Illinois, where I grew up. Rothstein v American Airlines, Inc starred my father, Plaintiff Steven Rothstein, and the defendant, then the worlds third-largest airline. With $23bn in annual revenue, American Airlines had nothing to lose. For my father, it was a last-ditch effort to save his life.
Heres how it all took off. In the early 1980s, American rolled out AAirpass, a prepaid membership program that let very frequent flyers purchase discounted tickets by locking in a certain number of annual miles they presumed they might fly in advance. My 30-something-year-old father, having been a frequent flyer for his entire life, purchased one. Then, a few years later, American introduced something straight out of an avid travelers fantasy: an unlimited ticket.
In 1987, amid a lucrative year as a Bear Stearns stockbroker, my father became one of only a few dozen people on earth to purchase an unlimited, lifetime AAirpass. A quarter of a million dollars gave him access to fly first class anywhere in the world on American for the rest of his life. He flew so much it paid for itself. Often hed leave in the morning for a business trip, fly back, and I hadnt even known hed left. Other times, I remember calling his office to find out what country he was in. He (and our whole family) was featured on NBCs Today Show in 2003, and then on MSNBC in 2006. For 20 years, he was one of Americans top fliers, accumulating more than 30 million miles, which he acquired every time he flew, even with the AAirpass.