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Send us a story tip. Become a Patron. Follow us. My dad was one of the only people with a good-for-life, go-anywhere American Airlines pass.
Savo: All For the Good
Then they took it away. This is the true story of having—and losing—a superpower. O n March 10, , a case was filed in the U. Rothstein v. American Airlines, Inc. For my father, it was a last-ditch effort to save his life. In the early s, 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 something-year-old father, having been a frequent flyer for his entire life, purchased one.
In , amidst 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. Other times, I remember calling his office to find out what country he was in. For several years, the revenues department at American had been monitoring my father and other AAirpass holders to see how much their golden tickets were costing the airline in lost revenue. My father was one of several lifetime, unlimited AAirpass holders American claimed had breached their contracts. A few months later, my father sued American for breaking their deal, and more importantly, taking away something integral to who he was.
They fought out of court for years. The story became front-page news. The LA Times.
Legends of the Jews
The New York Post. Fox News. A slew of online outlets. The obvious story is that my father was a decadent jet-setter who either screwed or got screwed by American; depends on your take. Dad has loved to travel for his entire life. His father, Josh, was a navigator in the Army Air Corps during World War II, and ran a company that manufactured paper and artificial flowers, traveling worldwide and telling stories about the places he went. Make sure you have your tie on. He wrote his college application on a typewriter at a hotel beach in Hawaii and mailed it from a post office in Osaka, Japan.
He flew to Europe several times a year and went to live there after graduating in That December, he joined the wallet business — a company my grandfather had purchased — doing sales. He had an apartment in Manhattan on East 89th Street, but mostly, he was at the wallet factory in Oklahoma, or traveling, both for work and play.
Transitioning to finance, Dad moved to Chicago in for a stint at Smith Barney, and according to him, became the second highest-grossing stockbroker at Bear Stearns in , where he worked for a decade. Later, he focused on investment banking, and also became the largest shareholder of the financial corporation Olympic Cascade, the holding company of a brokerage firm, National Securities. Through it all, he continued flying. Airports and airplanes — they were who Dad was. Then, having the cash after a good year at Bear, the investment in an unlimited pass made sense.
In September , five months after my brother, Josh, was born, and three months after we moved from downtown Chicago into the north suburbs, Dad bought his unlimited lifetime AAirpass. My father was 37 years and four days old when he dated the check. Two years later, which was one year before my younger sister, Natalie, was born, he added a companion feature to his AAirpass, allowing him to bring another person along on any flight. This changed the game, not only for him, but our entire family.
My parents decided early on to take separate planes so that in the unlikely event of a crash, at least one of them would be alive for their three children. Officially a customer for life, major U. He knew every employee on his journey — from the curb, through security, to the gate, and onto the plane.
None of us has ever met her in person. But Lorraine was family. Her Southern lilt, a speakerphone staple at the dinner table.
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While my father befriended dozens and dozens of American employees throughout his tenure as one of their top fliers, and while we knew plenty by name, and vice versa — from skycaps to Admirals Club employees to people who worked at the ticket counter — no one played a role quite like Lorraine. Lorraine and Dad became fast pals. Bean tote bag more times than I can count , and magazines from foreign airport lounges. She says they shared inside jokes — a lot. Dad gifted the miles and upgrades he accumulated throughout his life — both before and during his AAirpass tenure — to dozens and dozens of people over the years.
Once he upgraded my cantor and his wife to first class from Amsterdam. He regularly let relatives and people in crisis come along in his extra seat. He helped get other people where they needed to go. Just that his AAirpass was about more than solipsistic travel. It allowed him to build relationships.
Make connections. Form meaningful bonds. And it allowed other people to access the world like he did. M y friend Phil likes to say my father ran his life like a corporation and raised me in it. His underwear was pressed. UPS and FedEx came nightly to our driveway to drop things off, pick things up.
Our latest Narratively story isn't available online - we printed the entire thing on a tote bag!
He had packing down to a science — sets of clothes folded and fitted into plastic cases, cosmetics ready to go. We had a whole suitcase closet in the basement, and at some point, he turned the downstairs guest room into a staging area for packing, his clothing and cosmetic sets stacked in laundry baskets. A fun party trick was bringing people inside — his business associates, my siblings and my friends. Sometimes we used the items ourselves.
I Had to Take My Dirty Panties to a Rabbi, and So Has Every Orthodox Jewish Woman
Often, we gave things away. When he went to India twice as a family, several times he alone for work , he brought things along. Like travel, for Dad, the Secret Room was an extension of souvenir collecting as a kid. Steven Rothstein was there. He was very much there. And always in touch.