Proud American Traveler kept you up to date on all the news in travel in 2019 – informing and entertaining you along the way.
Beautiful destinations, travel tips, and sometimes the downright crazy experiences we all have on our travel adventures – and it’s a new year full of lots more to experience and explore.
But there’s always that one trip that is cemented in our memories – like one man’s New Year’s travel nightmare trying to play by a major airline’s rules.
We’re barely into 2020, and frequent traveler Andrew Kimmel has already gotten off to the worst start possible.
Kimmel travels a lot — all over the world – in his work as a television producer and entrepreneur. He’s a former producer of The Bachelor and has worked for BuzzFeed News, so this wasn’t his first rodeo.
He’s one of those world travelers who likes the perks that airlines offer – like the status and service that comes with elite memberships. I wouldn’t know, but it sounds like flying is a lot nicer when you’ve earned the “loyalty” of major carriers.
So as New Year’s Eve approached, Kimmel wanted to make sure that he had jumped through all the appropriate hoops needed to keep his status.
Then he noticed that he had not met the annual requirements for keeping his Executive Platinum status with American Airlines.
In order to escape having to pay nearly $2,000 to keep his status, he realized he only needed to take one short trip to meet the criteria for renewal.
This isn’t uncommon – elite frequent fliers do this all the time. It’s called a “mileage run.”
Last year, our editor wrote about sitting on a plane next to an Irishman who flew all the way from Dublin to Vermont and back to pick up a few 4-packs of beer — and preserve his American Airlines status.
Couple miles or couple bucks short of the minimum requirements? Take one more flight and you’re good to go.
So with 24 hours to spare in 2019, Kimmel decided to book a trip to Mexico. He had the money and the time. It might be a fun way to end the year – and beat American Airlines at their own game.
In retrospect, we’re pretty sure Kimmel wishes he would have just paid what is probably chump change to someone like him.
You can’t make this stuff up…
Whether or not you think he’s way too entitled in his world view, you gotta feel bad for Andrew Kimmel.
He paid dearly to keep that Executive Platinum status.
His trip started off great. He found a cheap room and rental car, and a nice family he met along the way bought him dinner.
He was having fun and decided to ring out the soon-to-be old year with a couple of beers at a local bar before hopping back on the plane.
They ended up being a couple of very expensive beers.
Obviously, looking like an entitled American tourist gets you flagged in this part of Mexico.
The bar manager promptly presented him with a bill for $300. It was either really, really good beer, or he was the victim of a scam.
You guessed it – the latter, and after arguing with the manager and being threatened with arrest, Kimmel decided to pay up rather than end up in a Mexican jail cell.
But then, his card was declined due to the credit card company thinking it was fraud. We can’t blame them – after all, they saw a $300 charge for two beers in some Mexican bar on New Year’s Eve. Sounds like a legitimate charge to me.
Then, he found out his phone had died. (**Millennial gasp heard ‘round the world!**)
The bar manager dragged him outside and demanded he get the cash from a conveniently placed ATM. Kimmel had had it at that point and thought the local police would surely offer some help.
They hauled him off to a lovely jail cell. I’m sure you’ve now figured out they were more than happy to help the local bar owners for a cut of the proceeds. The police had a few laughs at his expense, took his passport, and locked him up.
He was supposed to be released within the hour, which turned into three, all while his cellmate lamented over the angry wife he was sure to hear from soon and complained about the lack of toilet paper.
I won’t go there.
He dozed off, since he had been up for hours traveling. The “quick” trip to Mexico to stick it to American Airlines was right on top of his return from Indonesia.
He awoke to an officer telling him someone had bailed him out. It was a lovely woman from Kenya who claimed she “just wanted to help.”
Now, it all sounds a little fishy to me, but what man wouldn’t want to leave a cold, nasty jail cell in a foreign country when presented with the opportunity to leave with a beautiful woman?
She claimed she had been scammed in a similar fashion when a local Uber driver had her arrested for refusing to pay an exorbitant fee for a quick trip.
Of course, he left with his rescuer – but the police still had his passport. At that point, it wasn’t likely he was getting it back.
He called an agency in the U.S. to report a stolen passport. Go to the American Embassy, they tell him, but it’s closed.
He tries to get help – new friend in tow – at the American Airlines desk back at the airport. Sure, they’ll get him on the last flight — if he fills out new paperwork at the Immigration desk.
Paperwork that requires presentation of a passport – and a working credit card.
His lovely friend from Kenya is still waiting for him, loans him some money, and gives him a kiss to help calm him down. She offers him a room at her Airbnb if he ends up stuck in Mexico.
(Ok – gotta stop here for a second. Is this lady for real? I like to believe there’s innate goodness in the world, but open your eyes, dude!!)
Torn between his friend’s tempting offer and the satisfaction he would get by making his goal of sticking it to the airline, he promises they’ll keep in touch and sets off to finish what he started…
His “*@#! mileage run,” he tweets — and the Executive Platinum status that is so close he can taste it.
All’s well that ends well.
Well, if you can believe everything else that Andrew Kimmel survived on this trip, then you’ll also believe that he arrived back at LAX where his car was parked, got home in time to shower and put on a tux, and made it to a swanky New Year’s Eve party right before the clock struck midnight.
This could be the next James Bond movie.
For American’s part in all of this, Kimmel had been tweeting his whole ordeal throughout the night and they had been in contact throughout much of the ordeal.
(But wait — hadn’t his phone died? Did he buy a charger in Mexico with no credit card? Did he borrow one from the dream girl? So many questions…)
The airline originally responded with scripted corporate jargon before they read through the rest of his posts. They eventually started a private dialogue with him, where he says he got a “lame corporate response.”
But if you’re wondering how he eventually got home sans passport, money, or paperwork – it’s because American Airlines apparently saw a publicity nightmare headed their way and worked with their team in Los Cabos and Customs and Border Patrol.
I suppose it helps that this guy (usually) has money.
I guess Executive Platinum perks include being rescued from a foreign country in time to get to your party.
As for dream girl, her name is Megan, and Kimmel is still in contact with her. He feels bad because she has been receiving a lot of unwanted attention over the whole story.
And, yes, many people have expressed the same thoughts that I have. Was she in on the whole con? Does she see a target in Andrew Kimmel?
Or is she really just an amazing person in the right place at the right time — the heroine of his story?
Only time will tell, but he’s willing to see what happens. First, repay her his bail money. Then take her to dinner.
My advice to Kimmel? I think he’s had enough adventure to last through 2020, and as a woman, I question Megan’s motives.
But maybe – just maybe – this travel nightmare will all be worth it if he gets the girl in the end.