All About U.S.-Based Lifetime Airline Passes

I don’t know about you, but for me, I think the ultimate in travel luxury would be a lifetime pass, or its equivalent, to something. Walt Disney World sold such things to select visitors and associates in the 1970s and 1980s, and Disneyland has been known to give them out to “significant” guests (i.e. the first guest, the 100,000,000th guest, the first child born at DL, etc.). The U.S. National park service used to offer a Golden Age Passport that got seniors free entry for life into U.S. national parks, but they discontinued the program in 2007. I think the most valuable would be a lifetime pass to an airline – and there used to be such a thing!

AAIn the early 1980s, American Airlines was strapped for cash, so they decided to start selling passes that gave unlimited first-class travel for life. Dubbed AAirpasses, the cost was $250,000 (remember that’s in early 1980s money, when the average round trip domestic flight was not quite $600) and you could buy a companion ticket for an additional $150,000. The lifetime ticket increased to $600,000 in 1990, and $1.01 million in 1993. The airline ended sales of the unlimited passes in 1994, except for a one time offer in the 2004 Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog, at a price of $3 million for the pass and $2 million for a companion pass (none were sold).

Not surprisingly, some people took more advantage of that ticket than would be expected. As per the Los Angeles Times in 2012,

“”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.

“I love Rome, I love Sydney, I love Athens,” Joyce said by phone from the Admirals Club at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. “I love Vegas and Frisco.”

(BTW, I highly recommend reading the whole Los Angeles Times article about American Airlines’ investigations into some of the people who bought and “overused” those lifetime passes, if you get a chance – it’s fascinating)

AYCJ
Photo via Swiss-Miss.com

JetBlue has occasionally sold “All You Can Jet” deals, which allowed you to travel as much as you wanted during a certain period of time. Choices included $699 for 30 days of unlimited travel or $499 for 30 days of unlimited travel (excluding Fridays and Saturdays). They haven’t made any of those types of tickets available since around 2010, but in late 2017, JetBlue had a contest where they gave away 3 AYCJ tickets that were good from early 2018 to early 2019.

The only company in recent years that offered any sort of “unlimited” pass for nationwide travel was through a company called OneGo. Described as “Netflix for flights” by Business Insider ;-), OneGo, launched in early 2016, was a subscription flight service that had connections (you see what I did there?) with 76 airlines that served over 700 routes across the U.S. For a $450 startup fee and then a monthly fee (i.e. $1,500 per month to fly anywhere on the west coast. $1,950 per month to fly above the central states. $2,300 per month to fly anywhere on the east coast or $2,950 to fly anywhere across the U.S.), you had unlimited flights (which turned out to actually have a whole lot of caveats in regards to, among other things, when you could book or change your flights, how many upcoming flights you could have on record at the same time, etc.). OneGo got a lot of good press when it first started in early 2016, but in researching for this article, I found a few articles from mile & point blogs that described their first hand experience with the company (One Mile At A Time was one of them). I went to OneGo’s website and got this:

Screen Shot 2018-05-09 at 11.51.04 AM
Their Twitter (all 57 tweets) is also now protected. Not very promising.

There are a few small, membership-only companies that offer private, charter flights for a reduced price, but they don’t offer flights on commercial airlines.

So there you have it. Apparently “lifetime passes” (or “monthtime passes”) are pretty much a thing of the past, or at least are available about as often as people win the lottery ;-). Granted, they were a whole lot of money, but in offering anything “unlimited,” the company can’t sustain what they originally offered, or runs the risk of customers pushing the line of that unlimitedness. That’s probably why none of those “unlimited” tickets are still for sale today.

Pity.

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One thought on “All About U.S.-Based Lifetime Airline Passes”

  1. AirCanada offers FlightPass, they have unlimited options.

    A while back I was working on a project with someone who was commuting 350 miles each way. But FlightPass has overseas passes too.

    Just not a pay-once-for-life package.

    Like

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