Steve Rothstein bought a golden ticket from American Airlines in 1987 — granting him a lifetime of unlimited travel.
He clocked more than 10 million miles and 10,000 flights. He used his power to fly hopeless strangers home, a friend to the Louvre, and a priest to Rome to meet the pope.
He hopped planes to other cities just for a baseball game or a sandwich.
Everybody, even American’s CEO, knew his name.
Steve Rothstein, who paid a mere $250K for his ticket in 1987, has made hundreds of overseas trips.
But in 2008, AA accused him of fraud and snatched his bottomless boarding pass.
American is reviewing its AAirpass program to find ways to terminate some of the 66 high-flying contracts that are costing the company millions of dollars a year.
Rothstein, then living in Chicago, bought his AAirpass for $250,000, plus a companion ticket for $150,000 more.
“I could go someplace and I wouldn’t even have to think about it,” he said. “Just make the reservation and go.”
He traveled 18 times in July 2004 alone, jetting to Nova Scotia, Maine, London, Los Angeles and Denver.
Once a business meeting in Miami was postponed for a day, so he took a junket to Caracas.
He booked flights under fake names such as “Bag Rothstein” if he didn’t know who his companion would be — a practice that the airline later used to accuse him of fraud.
Because of the AAirpass, his daughter went to boarding school in Switzerland. He took his son to dozens of nationwide sporting events including the Yankees-Mets Subway Series.
Some days he flew to Providence, RI, home of his alma mater, Brown University, just for a baloney-and-Swiss-cheese melt from a place called Geoff’s.
“A very fun Saturday would be to wake up early and fly to Detroit, rent a car and go to Ontario, have lunch and spend $50 or $100 buying Canadian things,” Rothstein said.
He’d be home in time for dinner with his wife and friends.
“But I wouldn’t say, ‘Oh, I went to Canada today.’ That would sound obnoxious.”
Still, the charmed traveler paid his fortune forward.
He gave away all of his 14 million air miles. If a stranded traveler was crying — such as one woman desperately trying to return to Bronxville, NY, because her children didn’t have a baby sitter — he’d offer her his companion seat.
“I felt those random acts of kindness were exactly the sorts of things that we’re meant to do as people,” he said.
It was on another goodwill trip that Rothstein was ultimately dethroned, and he had no idea it was coming.
On Dec. 13, 2008, he checked in at Chicago O’Hare International Airport with a friend, a policeman hoping to return to his native Bosnia.
An AA employee gave him a letter saying his pass had been terminated due to fraudulent activity.
He went home in shock and didn’t leave bed for days.
“I feel betrayed,” Rothstein said, adding that he helped sell AAirpasses to firms and spoke at the carrier’s events. “They took away my hobby and my life. They essentially destroyed my persona.”
Rothstein filed a lawsuit and a federal judge in Illinois ruled against him for booking under phony names. The case is now being appealed.
“Our country is almost captive to big companies who have incredible power to do whatever they want to do,” said Rothstein, who moved to New York in 2009. “It’s hard to fight them.”
But that’s just what he’s doing to get his beloved AAirpass back.
“They signed a contract,” he said, “and a contract’s a contract.”
Frequent flier Steve Rothstein’s travels under American Airline’s AAirpass program since 1987, which allowed him first-class flights for life:
* 10,000: Number of flights
* 10 million: Miles traveled
* 40 million: Frequent-flier miles earned
* 500: Trips to England
* 70: Trips Australia
* 120: Tokyo flights
* $21 million: Cost of the flights to American Airlines
* $250,000: What Rothstein paid for his AAirpass in 1987
* $3 million: Cost of an AAirpass in 2004, the last year it was offered
* 0: Number that sold that year
Source: Kate Briquelet, NY Post
Gravity always wins!