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 lawsuit was filed in the US circuit court for the northern district of Illinois, where I grew up. Rothstein v American Airline, Inc starred my father, Plaintiff Steven Rothstein, and the defendant, then the world’s third-largest airline. With $23 bn in annual revenue, American Airlines had nothing to lose. For my father, it was a last-ditch effort to save his life.
Here’s how it all took off. In the early 1980 s, American rolled out AAirpass, a prepay membership program that let very frequent flyers buy discounted tickets by locking in a certain number of annual miles they presumed they are to be able to 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 traveler’s fantasy: an limitless 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 one-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 he’d leave in the morning for a business trip, fly back, and I hadn’t even known he’d left. Other hours, I recollect calling his office to find out what country he was in. He( and our whole household) was featured on NBC’s Today Show in 2003, and then on MSNBC in 2006. For 20 years, he was one of American’s top fliers, accumulating more than 30 million miles, which he acquired every time he flew, even with the AAirpass.