American Airlines AAirpassI have something in common with Jacques Vroom and Steve Rothstein. Well, sort of.

These two men had purchased an AAirpass with American Airlines. For about $350,000, they bought the right to unlimited, lifetime first-class flights, anywhere in the world. Sounds like a pretty good deal, eh? Apparently, it was too good a deal.

After each traveler racked up approximately 40 million air miles, American Airlines banned them from further air travel – at least until the courts sort all this out. The airline has claimed to have lost millions of dollars each year since the AAirpass program began in 1987. Last year, the airline filed for bankruptcy, and it currently is in contract negotiations with unions.

While the two men may have stretched the rules of the frequent flier program to the extreme (think of it as frequent fliers on steroids), they did not technically violate the terms of the program.

So what do I have in common with these guys? I’m certainly not a world traveler (although one can always hope). Let’s face it, I don’t even sit in first class. Sigh.

It appears we’ve all reached the end of our lifetimes.

Their AAirpass programs were supposedly good for lifetime use. I had not one but two gym memberships that were said to be lifetime, but – poof – they’re gone. Does that mean I am gone, too?

OK, the first membership was paid for and the second one was a gift from the gym. But the point remains: Doesn’t “lifetime” mean for one’s entire life?

As I usually do, I think of these types of consumer experiences in terms of PR. American Airlines may have lost money with its AAirpass program, but now it’s also losing invaluable public relations points as a result of revoking these travelers’ privileges.

The gym that canceled my free membership is losing my positive word of mouth (and gaining negative word of mouth). When I used the facility or attended classes, I would rave to my friends about it. Now I’m ranting instead of raving.

What it boils down to is that people don’t like to have things taken away from them. It’s your inner toddler shouting: “Mine! Mine! Mine!”

I can think of other examples where companies taketh away, whether from customers or employees:

  • A company that offered summer hours to employees, then cut them back to half the summer, then to every other week for half the summer. Employees still must work the required number of hours every week, so what’s the big deal here?
  • A company that had a “casual Friday” dress policy (jeans) but backpedaled on it – even for employees who have no contact with clients. Say what?
  • A company department that doesn’t allow its salaried employees to work remotely or make up a few missed hours here and there (other departments do). Aren’t we all adults?

So I guess it’s caveat emptor.

All I know, is we’re so irate we’re rolling over in our graves.