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The Frequent Fliers Who Flew Too Much – A look at American Airlines’ AAirpass and the negative consequences (Los Angeles Times) →

American Airlines offers different forms of an unlimited first class flying pass. When originally conceived its usage potential was not completely understood by American and it came back to get them.

Mike Joyce of Chicago bought his in 1994 after winning a $4.25-million settlement after a car accident.

In one 25-day span this year, Joyce flew round trip to London 16 times, flights that would retail for more than $125,000. He didn’t pay a dime.

There are people always willing to find the different ways of making programs, deals, etc. work for them. The users of the AAirpass were no exception:

Creative uses seemed limitless. When bond broker Willard May of Round Rock, Texas, was forced into retirement after a run-in with federal securities regulators in the early 1990s, he turned to his trusty AAirpass to generate income. Using his companion ticket, he began shuttling a Dallas couple back and forth to Europe for $2,000 a month.

“For years, that was all the flying I did,” said May, 81. “It’s how I got the bills paid.”

The problem is, some of these uses were against the terms of the passes. American had let their enforcement of such terms and conditions slip and now had to react swiftly to stop any further loss.

Cade was assigned to find out whether any AAirpass holders were violating the rules, starting with those who flew the most.

She pulled years of flight records for Rothstein and Vroom and calculated that each was costing American more than $1 million a year.

[…]

On Dec. 13, 2008, Rothstein and a companion checked in at Chicago O’Hare International Airport for a transatlantic flight. An American employee handed him a letter, which said his AAirpass had been terminated for “fraudulent behavior.”

The whole story is a fascinating read and I highly recommend reading it. It is further proof that travel is a bit addictive and being able to pack up and go somewhere exotic is very alluring. And such an attractive hobby means that there always people looking for ways to maximize their value, bend the rules, and skirt attention.

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