One Way Ticket to Anywhere

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He had an apartment in Manhattan on East 89th Street, but mostly, he was at the wallet factory in Oklahoma, or traveling, both for work and play. Transitioning to finance, Dad moved to Chicago in for a stint at Smith Barney and, according to him, became the second-highest-grossing stockbroker at Bear Stearns in , where he worked for a decade. Later, he focused on investment banking, and also became the largest shareholder of the financial corporation Olympic Cascade, the holding company of a brokerage firm, National Securities.

Through it all, he continued flying.

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Airports and airplanes — they were who Dad was. Then, after a good year at Bear, the investment in an unlimited pass made sense. In September , five months after my brother, Josh, was born, and three months after we moved from downtown Chicago into the north suburbs, Dad bought his unlimited lifetime AAirpass. My father was 37 years and four days old when he dated the check. Two years later, which was one year before my younger sister, Natalie, was born, he added a companion feature to his AAirpass, allowing him to bring another person along on any flight.

This changed the game, not only for him, but our entire family. My parents decided early on to take separate planes so that in the unlikely event of a crash, at least one of them would be alive for their three children. He knew every employee on his journey — from the curb, through security, to the gate, and on to the plane.

None of us has ever met her in person. But Lorraine was family, her southern lilt a speakerphone staple at the dinner table. While my father befriended dozens and dozens of American employees throughout his tenure as one of their top fliers, no one played a role quite like Lorraine. Lorraine and Dad became fast pals. She says they shared inside jokes — a lot. American — and its employees — were his parents.

Dad gifted the miles and upgrades he accumulated throughout his life — both before and during his AAirpass tenure — to dozens and dozens of people. Once he upgraded my cantor and his wife to first class from Amsterdam. He regularly let relatives and people in crisis come along in his extra seat. Just that his AAirpass was about more than solipsistic travel. It allowed him to build relationships. And it allowed other people to access the world like he did. My friend Phil likes to say my father ran his life like a corporation and raised me in it.

His underwear was pressed. UPS and FedEx came nightly to our driveway to drop things off, pick things up. He had packing down to a science — sets of clothes folded and fitted into plastic cases, cosmetics ready to go. We had a whole suitcase closet in the basement, and at some point, he turned the downstairs guest room into a staging area for packing. A fun party trick was bringing people inside — his business associates, my siblings and my friends.

Sometimes we used the items ourselves. Often, we gave things away. When he went to India, he brought things along. Like travel, for Dad, the Secret Room was an extension of souvenir collecting as a kid. In retrospect, that was wildly dramatic. Steven Rothstein was there. He was very much there. And always in touch. I mean, he used a phone … he was one of the first people with a cellphone. Most of my life, I focused on how Dad was always on a plane. When I think about it now, when he was home, he was there: sitting with me on my bedroom floor, or at the dinner table, or coming in to kiss me goodnight.

He has a presence.

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Not only a loud voice, but also a boom of self. He arrives. He is both taking off and landing at once. If there was a chance he could come home and stay with his family overnight, he preferred that to any hotel in the world. I wanna go home. I wanna be with my family. Dad was an airport celebrity, and when we traveled together, it embarrassed the shit out of me.

Like riding a cart from security to the gate because as a family, we ran late — Dad has a knack for rushed arrivals. Or walking into the Admirals Club locations and having the folks at the front desk know us by name. Or when, in second grade, he took me to Japan for the weekend because he wanted me to experience an inaugural flight San Jose to Tokyo. We were in the bulkhead, the first row of any flight cabin. As we landed, there were reporters flooding the jet bridge to photograph the first person off the flight. Technically, based on his seat, that was Dad. But as he figured out what was happening, he insisted I go first so I could be the star.

I stood there with my seven-year-old smile, bright-colored headband, and long V-neck Limited Too sweater hanging down to my thighs. He wanted to take me to all 50 states by the time I was We put a big US map on the wall behind his home office desk.

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But I sort of doubt, for the most part, they had the kind of wanderlust and open-mindedness and fascination that your father had with the world, and still does, for that matter. It was woven into your tapestry. Into the fabric of who you are, and how you look at other people and the world. I understood the weight and privilege as a kid. I understood — we all did — that the AAirpass meant my father could travel and do business in unprecedented ways, and it allowed our entire family to travel in ways few people on earth could.

We got the privileges, all of them, all of us. I ask my sister, Natalie, a psychotherapist living in Chicago, her earliest memories of traveling on an airplane: landing in Australia at age three, walking down the aisle as the plane was still moving, and someone grabbing her to keep her safe. But I was aware very early. Wont to interrogate privilege — race, class and otherwise — I pry. Did she really get that first class was different than the rest of the plane?

It was clear I was surrounded by mostly people who had a lot of money, and I was always one of the only kids in first class, and that felt weird and I always wanted to be with other kids in coach. That trip to Australia I was in fifth grade was our first big international family vacation. You and Josh are in all the black-and-white-check stuff. It was so unusual to be Americans at Christmas in Tokyo. As she recounts these stories, her tone is somewhere between euphoric and frenzied. People enriched us. Hopefully we enriched others.

One Way Ticket to Anywhere

She starts laughing as she recalls a time we visited the Holy Sepulchre in Israel and Dad got in trouble for lying down with his yoga strap, trying to stretch his back in front of the church. The travel was first class, the hotels were first class, but the experiences were very real and authentic. On 6 October , Josh — 15 and a half — was hit by a car while walking down the sidewalk. The car had pulled an illegal U-turn. To avoid a collision, another driver accidentally accelerated, swerved up on to the sidewalk and flung Josh into the side of a building.

His head hit the building.

He was knocked unconscious. My uncle Jeffrey called me from Scarsdale and told me to get on a plane. It was my first month of college; I rushed to the Philadelphia airport and bought a ticket home.

source url It would be at least another 15 years before I could descend the American Airlines baggage claim escalator without going into a trauma shock. Over a thousand people attended his funeral. Lorraine helped get people on flights. Ernie from American says it was sad to watch Dad when they occasionally saw each other over the years. His only son. But I knew how much it impacted him … I know his children meant more to him than any business deal, than any situation in life that could come up.

I had asked Dad what the media tends to overlook when they cover this story. I was just very confused and very lonely and I was calling American Airlines because they were logical people for me to speak to. They knew me. I knew them. I knew their names. I knew their lives. I talk to Natalie, who was still at home with a front row seat to his grief while I was away at college.

She tells me about the shame Dad felt when people in our community often pitied him after Josh died — and still do — as if he were a broken man. But the airport and American were where he was still treated like a full, whole man. I checked in my luggage for London. Turns out a letter had been drafted to notify Dad that they were concerned with his behavior and use of the pass.

But they decided not to send it. I was probably more shocked than anyone else. Aamil never made it to Sarajevo. In fact, that was one of the last times they ever spoke. Ultimately, Aamil disappeared from our lives. Dad went home. Told Mom. Got in bed. And slept for the rest of the weekend, and arguably — at least figuratively — for a really long time after that. And I had no idea how I was going to live my life the way I lived it. His blood. There was a contract. It was his superpower.

Dad was one of a few lifetime, unlimited AAirpass holders that American had been monitoring and claimed had breached their contracts. But now, after years of secret investigation, apparently Dad and others were costing American too much money. Though Dad had dealt with the reservations agents on an almost daily basis, it was the revenues department that got involved, interjected, and launched an investigation that brought the whole house down.

The dollar amount was based on the value of the lifetime unlimited AAirpass the last time it was sold for public consumption — though American had stopped selling them in , a Neiman Marcus catalogue offered them for 3 million bucks. A primary issue in the case was whether American properly terminated his AAirpass Agreement based on Section 12, which read:.

If American determines that an AAirpass has been fraudulently used, American reserves the right to revoke the AAirpass and all privileges associated with it. Holder will thereupon forfeit all rights to the AAirpass, without refund, and will return the AAirpass card and this Agreement shall terminate. According to Lorraine and the legal documents, a longtime American employee launched the investigation, looking into several other AAirpass holders, including Dad and Jacques Vroom, another lifetime unlimited customer, whose AAirpass termination also resulted in a lawsuit.

I reached out to American Airlines for comment on this article. Truth is, AAirpass was — even in its earliest, earliest days — a failed program. I've flown a couple of times to a foreign country but have had no issues other than airline companies making sure about the situation, and the immigration officer asking about my intentions and reasons why I don't have a returning ticket yet. But everything depend on the immigration policies, your particular schedules, and your personal records. To avoid trouble, you should get a ticket out of Japan if possible, or be ready to justify your situation like you're taking the ferry out of Japan but the tickets are purchased only in Japan and you have the printed out online booking confirmation.

There are people with schedules that are subject to change, but these people usually come with open tickets not without returning tickets. Why do the airlines care? Yep, carrier liability. But ultimately the decision about whether you are allowed entry is made by the Japanese authorities. Even with an outbound ticket discretion to deny entry is regularly acted upon. Yes, other countries have restrictions too but as we are talking about Japan I'll stick to what I know, the attitude of the authorities towards 'Aliens' is infamous.

Now this won't normally affect the average traveler from a developed country but many people in this forum are not necessarily from 'first world' nations so may need to know the reality. It is harder for some nationalities to get into Japan than others. JAL vs Mrs Asuncion was a case that happened 20 years ago in Not withstanding, they were from the Philippines, which does not have a visa-waiver agreement with Japan for person's to enter without a status.

They were trying to get a shore pass issued on the spot at the airport which is different from a transit-visa. A shore pass is a special specific category of entrance for certain passengers and It's not that great of a example to showcase. If you are entering Japan from a non-visa waiver country and no-visa then of course you would get a lot of scrutiny from immigration officials.

A person who is from a visa-waiver country or a person from a non-visa waiver country not all countries without visa-waiver agreements with Japan are third world nations but in procession of a valid Japan visa obtained from a Japanese diplomatic mission prior to entering Japan with an onward ticket is more highly likely to be admitted into Japan by immigration officials than a person without a prior visa or visa-waiver agreement to enter Japan.

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