Airline Yanked Man's Unlimited Travel Pass

| by Sheena Vasani
Steve RothsteinSteve Rothstein

After flying him first class on more than 10,000 flights worldwide on a pass that gave him unlimited lifetime travel, American Airlines may be in trouble for suddenly terminating the man's program membership.

New York investment banker Steve Rothstein took American Airlines to court after discovering it terminated his AAirpass program membership, the New York Post reports.

Rothstein legally purchased the AAirpass in 1987 for $250,000 and bought an additional companion pass for $150,000, the New York Post reports.

He often used his second ticket, as well as the 14 million air miles he accumulated, to help others, eventually making a name for himself. Even American Airlines’ CEO knew who Rothstein was.

“[I] became a hero at the airline,” Rothstein said. “I could just show up and get a seat.”

Once he gave a seat to a crying mother desperately trying to get home because her children didn’t have a baby-sitter.  

But his acts of kindness would eventually get him in trouble.

Rothstein explained that because he didn’t always know who his companion would be, he would book flights under fake names like “Bag Rothstein.”

While trying to help a police officer get back home to Bosnia in 2008, an American Airlines employee informed Rothstein his pass had been terminated. Booking under false names was considered fraudulent, the airline said.

Rothstein said he was so shocked, he couldn’t get out of bed for days. He felt betrayed, too, as he had helped the airline sell passes and spoke at its events.

“They took away my hobby and my life. They essentially destroyed my persona,” the man said.

Some speculate American Airlines terminated the pass after his frequent travel cost them millions -- far more than the $400,000 Rothstein originally paid for the two passes.

The airline stopped allowing unlimited travel on its passes, claiming it was losing money from the program. It is now trying to figure out how to terminate the other 66 passes it sold, reported New York Post.

“It soon became apparent that the public was smarter than we were,” the airline’s former CEO,  Robert Crandall, once explained, Today I Found Out reports.

An Illinois court ruled against Rothstein for using fake names, but he says he is appealing the case.

“They signed a contract,” he said. “And a contract’s a contract.”

Sources: New York Post, Today I Found Out / Photo credit: Angel Chevrestt/New York Post

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