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Steven Rothstein had a pretty good deal. He had an AAirpass — a pass he purchased from American Airlines which gave him unlimited access to fly wherever and whenever he liked.

The Los Angeles Times laid out a typical month: "In July 2004, for example, Rothstein flew 18 times, visiting Nova Scotia, New York, Miami, London, Los Angeles, Maine, Denver and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., some of them several times over."

But those were the good old days. Rothstein has had his wings clipped recently by American Airlines after hard economic times led the airline to review losses such as those caused by the program. Rothstein's AAirpass was revoked.

According to MSNBC, Steven Rothstein had flown 30 million miles. Another AAirpass holder, Jacques Vroom had 40 million miles.

Vroom purchased an AAirpass membership (which included a pass for a companion) in Jan. 1990 for $356,000. By June 2008, Vroom had logged 37,522,942 miles.

The LA Times said, "It was almost like owning a fleet of private jets."

The passes were offered until 1994, although the 2004 Neiman-Marcus Christmas catalog briefly had them for sale for $3 million. But the LA Times said Rothstein and Vroom were costing American more than $1 million per year.

American Airlines investigated the use of the passes and decided they were being misused and revoked Rothstein's and Vroom's privileges. "The lawsuits started flying," MSNBC said. "Everything is on hold right now, though, now that American Airlines is going through bankruptcy protection."

"Most large companies have processes and procedures in place to monitor misuse and fraud," said a statement from American Airlines to MSNBC. "Cases such as these are very isolated and represent an extremely small percentage of our overall AAirpass accounts but fraudulent activity costs all of our customers money."

The brouhaha over the AAirpass is strangely reminiscent of a similar situation in Salt Lake City back in April 2004. A West Valley couple thought Chuck-A-Rama's buffet was "all-you-can-eat." They felt humiliated when they were told they had enough roast beef and sued. The restaurant later publicly apologized — offering the couple an undisclosed number of free meals.

It is doubtful, however, that the nation's third-largest airline — which has sought to cancel labor contracts in March and has cut pay — will settle the differences with a few free air trips.

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