Tuesday, May 8, 2012

TANTALUM STATUS: In the early 1980s, American Airlines began to sell a pass that entitled the holder to unlimited First Class travel.
"We thought originally it would be something that firms would buy for top employees," said Bob Crandall, American's chairman and chief executive from 1985 to 1998. "It soon became apparent that the public was smarter than we were." The unlimited passes were bought mostly by wealthy individuals, including baseball Hall-of-Famer Willie Mays, America's Cup skipper Dennis Conner and computer magnate Michael Dell. 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.
They've spent most of the time since trying to deprive the sixty or so holders of the pass the benefit of their bargain.


  1. I'm by no means a bankruptcy lawyer, but can American choose to accept/reject these agreements in bankruptcy?

  2. KCosmo11:01 AM

    This was such a great article.

  3. Ranhorn11:44 AM

    No stake in this, but the whole thing seems symbiotic of the rise and fall of the USA airline ndustry. Where they once put effort into customer service and creative programs to offer their best customers. airlines now see customers as a problem

  4. isaac_spaceman12:23 PM

    I don't understand.  Of course American should be able to back out of the deal.  Clearly the intent of the parties was that American would cheat the customer, not the other way around.   

  5. Fred App3:32 PM

    Clearly, when American touted it as a "lifetime" offer, they were referring to the company's lifetime, not the customer's.

  6. sconstant10:16 PM

    I'm a lifetime subscriber to McSweeney's, and a while back (5 years or so?) they sent a lovely/cutesy/slightly-squirrelly letter saying would I please please please let them out of their end of the deal, which had paid off for me many times over, and here are some other things we will do for you, and also:please please please. 

    I didn't respond, half because I love the stuff but likely wouldn't maintain a subscription at the current rates, half because I was incredibly busy and frazzled and misplaced the letter, and half because I have invested in so many failing magazines by purchasing lifetime subscriptions that this is how I am breaking even on the deal (not really that half).  But now I find that I haven't really read the last N issues, and I should probably write to them absolving them of any future obligation. 

    But Dave Eggers has to come to my house next time he's in town.

  7. Watchman10:18 AM

    When my proposal for the addition of a Pulitzer Prize for Snark is finally approved, it will be immediately granted to Isaac Spaceman and then permanently retired.