It would seem like the golden ticket for guys who love big boys toys like planes. American Airlines used to sell lifetime tickets, even for first class, for as little as US$350,000. But it’s gotten them into a whole mess of trouble.
If you had a lot of money and loved travel, or perhaps even needed to travel a lot for business, imagine being able to buy a lifetime ticket for unlimited flights at just US$350,000 – and that’s for first class. That was the offer American Airlines had going back in the early 90s. Surprise, surprise, a stack of people took it up, and they certainly made the most of it.
The LA Times has done a deep feature article on the case of American Airlines AAirpass holders allegedly misusing their tickets (which in some cases also included companion tickets) in order to make money or just book extra flights. It also details the financial trouble that American Airlines got itself into from offering these types of tickets.
Ticket prices eventually went up until the last offer of unlimited travel in 2004 which priced a ticket at US$3 million but the damage had already been done and no one was purchasing unlimited travel tickets at the steeply increased prices. What was worse for American Airlines, passenger using these unlimited tickets still gained points for their travels, leading some to gain more than 30 million flyer points (and counting).
The LA Times takes up the full story including the financial figures, the measures the airline took to stop the rot and the passengers it investigated for fraudulent use of their tickets. You couldn’t make up a better thriller.
Damian Francis has previously edited Australian T3 and F1 Racing magazine and wrote for GQ Australia and Men’s Health. Unlike Nick and Trev, he has no kids, no mortgage and no wife, but lives happily on Sydney’s North Shore with his girlfriend.