All you can fly

In 1981, it seems a good idea. American Airlines starts selling lifetime unlimited AAirpasses hoping to raise millions of dollars at a time when interest rates are sky high.

Prices start at $250,000 (€194,000), while an extra $150,000 (€116,000) buys a companion pass. Older fliers get discounts based on their age.

AAirpass holders earn frequent flier miles on every trip and are lifetime members to the Admirals Club, American's airport lounges.

American sold 66 unlimited AAirpasses. Over time the price increased to $3 million (€2.3 million) in 2004, when American offered the unlimited AAirpass one last time. A companion pass had gone up to $2 million.

American treated AAirpass holders like royalty until the airline began realizing that they are costing millions in lost revenue. According to the Los Angeles Times American is now investigating whether AAirpass users are violating rules, with some stunning results.

One AAirpass holder shuttled a Dallas couple back and forth to Europe for $2,000 (€1.550) a month by using his companion ticket. American revoked his AAirpass. Several others also saw their passes canceled due to behavior, which American considers improper or fraudulent.

Lawyers of one of these AAirpass holders say the seat-selling accusation is moot because the contract did not prohibit it. American did not ban the practice until 3 years after their client bought his pass.

If American determines any activity that has violated its policies or is fraudulent in nature, it takes action. However, revoked passes are very isolated and represent an extremely small percentage of the overall AAirpass accounts, according to the airline.

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