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The Mileage Run That Went so Wrong It’s Going to Be a Movie

The Mileage Run That Went so Wrong It’s Going to Be a Movie
Jeff Edwards

The mileage run is a time-honored way of maintaining premium airline status without forking over big bucks. But, for film producer Andrew Kimmel, the cost of making an end-of-the-year mileage run to Cabo was a night in a Mexican jail, a seized passport and lingering regrets.

Related: FlyerTalk’s MileageRun Forum

Close Only Counts in Hand Grenades and Horseshoes

Kimmel’s epic @AmericanAir tweet-storm began with an explanation of the infuriating reason he found himself making an unexpected flight from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Los Cabos International Airport (SJD) in the first place: he had just received the news that he was $275 Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) short of retaining his status for the year and would need to spend $1875 cash to keep it.

So Far So Good

Rather than make a sizable donation to American, Kimmel booked last-minute, $400 tickets to Mexico for a quick 24-hour vacation (daycation?)/mileage run to earn enough EQD to maintain his status.

“I managed to find a cheap hotel room and rented a car for $35,” Kimmel wrote in his now-famous Twitter thread. “I went out for a nice dinner and met a family who surprised me and paid for my bill (perhaps I should eat alone more often!). I then decided to hit some bars. And this is where my 24-hour mileage run got interesting.”

La Mordida

Frequent travelers to Mexico may be familiar with a local con known as “la mordida” or “the bite.” If you’re not, it’s pretty simple to explain: serve an unsuspecting tourist a meal or drinks at your establishment. Then present that tourist with an outrageously high bill. Should that tourist refuse to pay the tab, alert the police, who are in on the con and will advise the tourist that they can pay the bill, pay “bail” (a bribe) or spend the night in jail.

This is just about exactly what happened to Kimmel when he was presented with a $300 bill for a single beer at an establishment called The Urban Bar. He opted for a night in jail and wound up “somewhere outside of Cabo” after being forced to leave his credit card and passport with the bar manager.

Fortunately, Kimmel met another tourist in jail for the same thing. That tourist paid his bail and Kimmel was out in time to make his 3:36 pm flight home to Los Angeles to attend a New Year’s Eve party. Unfortunately, he still didn’t have his passport and was unlikely to get it unless he paid his $300 extortion.

“I have no f—— clue what I’m going to do,” Kimmel wrote in a later post. “I call passport control in the States to report a stolen passport. They tell me to call the local embassy. I call and they’re closed. I ask my new friend to wait in the car at the airport as I run to the airline desk. It’s now 3:00pm.”

All’s Well-ish that Ends Well-ish

Amazingly, the ticket agent at the airport was able to get approval for him to board his flight without a passport. It perhaps helped that Kimmel presented his Homeland Security-approved REAL ID driver’s license.

“MADE IT BACK TO LA!!!” Kimmel wrote in a final live-tweet to those following his saga on New Year’s Eve. “Time to change out of my two-day outfit and celebrate. Have fun out there tonight.”

Kimmel made it to his party, retained his American Airlines status, and wound up with a story that’s so over-the-top it’s now been optioned as a possible movie script with one film project “already in the works.”

American Airlines, for it’s part, after reading the story in Kimmel’s Tweet thread responded: “Reaching Executive Platinum status isn’t easy. For those who make it, the benefits are amazing! We’re happy you’ll make your goal!”

But Kimmel hadn’t reached Executive Platinum status.

The Final Twist

After contacting Kimmel and American Airlines officials, popular travel blogger Gary Leff of View from the Wing was able to confirm a number of Kimmel’s nearly unbelievable claims. He also reported a nugget of stunning new information: the ill-fated mileage run to a Mexican jail and back was conceived to avoid losing AAdvantage Platinum Pro status, which makes the whole affair even more awful somehow.

Looking to avoid the adventure that befell Andrew Kimmel? Check out this exhaustive list of scams, dangers, and annoyances A quick reference of the Flyertalk Consolidated Current scams, danger, and annoyance to beware of in Mexico might help to keep the predators at bay while enjoying fun in the sun while south of the border.

View Comments (25)

25 Comments

  1. OUTraveling

    January 21, 2020 at 1:41 pm

    Should have contact the U.S. Embassy emergency line or even requested to speak to a consular official from the embassy the moment he was arrested.

  2. IBJoel

    January 21, 2020 at 1:44 pm

    Your first mistake was trying to have fun

  3. born sleepy

    January 21, 2020 at 2:40 pm

    I heard about this awhile ago and I’m still very doubtful this story holds water. Yes maybe he did spend the night in jail but the mystery Kenyan and other stories seem a little too much to believe.

    Who goes to Cabo on a mileage run?? You fly to a boring hub airport and get right back on a return flight, typically. Go to LAS for a night or two, not some sketch tourist trap in Mexico.

  4. AndreaNewEngland

    January 22, 2020 at 4:13 am

    What’s with the clickbait headline? How is this going to be a movie?

  5. Gemma2

    January 22, 2020 at 4:24 am

    Seems I read very recently of a similar story with a similar ending.
    Also agree with @born sleepy; why would you bother to go anywhere needing a passport? Plenty of places in the US to go to achieve the aim.

  6. pfountain

    January 22, 2020 at 4:59 am

    Why the F would ANYONE go to Mexico for a mileage run?? REALLY??? Mexico is corrupt and on a good day dangerous. If you really need $400 from LA for a mileage run, I can think of a lot better places to go, Hawaii, Canada if you must fly international, etc…..NEVER Mexico. Living in So Cal, I can tell you that would be the LAST place I would ever set foot.

  7. jrpallante

    January 22, 2020 at 5:35 am

    Mexico is one big criminal enterprise, and this story is par for the course.

  8. Whodunit68

    Whodunit68

    January 22, 2020 at 5:37 am

    American Airlines, for it’s part,..

    It’s.
    That’s all I’ve got.

  9. Mediaink

    January 22, 2020 at 6:19 am

    I agree. Why Mexico? I was short $200 MQD for my Delta Diamond status, and just hopped on a roundtrip basic fare San Diego to Vegas. I didn’t even leave the airport (or the gate) for the return. Play those games, win those prizes.

  10. kc1174

    January 22, 2020 at 7:50 am

    It seems legit to me. I looked at the thread and some later posts and there’s images of the bar in question constantly pinging his credit card that night and the days that followed. I believe Chase flagged and reversed them.
    All that said – just go for BAEC silver unless it’s the upgrades he’s looking for. 600 easily obtainable tier points on AA and 4 flights with BA flight numbers that can be achieved on their Caribbean island hops.

  11. polinka

    January 22, 2020 at 8:10 am

    When will people learn? Don’t go to Mexico.

  12. Jackie_414

    January 22, 2020 at 8:18 am

    Forrest Gump moment: Stupid is as Stupid does. Could you not have gone to New Orleans? Chicago? Atlanta?

  13. Bustedmagnet

    January 22, 2020 at 9:02 am

    Couldn’t you just pay it and immediately call the credit card company for fraud and do a chargeback? (which would teach them a lesson in fees)

  14. gavron

    January 22, 2020 at 9:47 am

    Well, respectfully, I wasn’t there so this is my opinion.

    I’ve lived in Tucson, Arizona, just north of the border with Mexico, for nearly 30 years. I’ve gone to Mexico many times. I’m an IT guy and a FF on AA/UA/DL/SW. (Maybe I should have left out SW ;-)

    Mordida exists in some forms. Usually it’s a police stop where “something is not in order” and a “cash payment will resolve this issue.” It has nothing to do with bars, food, beers, $300, etc. The worst I’ve seen is “Oh, you have 7 SCUBA tanks in this car… there’s a $50/tank charge to go on past this checkpoint” which got negotiated down to $70. Not $0… but sometimes you take the easy win vs working it for the complete win that may not exist.

    The bar owner “took his passport” — WAIT, WHUT???@@@!!!??? That doesn’t happen. You’re a successful world traveler and you HAND OVER YOUR PASSPORT to a non passport official? No. Try again. Maybe the bartender asked for an ID and instead of SHOWING him one (remember – he had his RI/DL with him) he GAVE OVER HIS PASSPORT. If you want to see my disbelief just look for the capital letters.

    Police in Los Cabos arrested AN AMERICAN TOURIST OVER A BARTAB. Ok now we’re being ridiculous. American Tourists are the bread and butter there and you can piss in the streets and not get arrested (although Mordida will likely apply there as you need to pay a “fine” for your conduct.). You can start a barfight and hit people and again…. Americans don’t get arrested.

    When an American is arrested in a foreign country the embassy is notified. Whut? They weren’t? Was there really an arrest?

    A Kenyan woman (not sure why her nationality is a factor here but I’m including it for completeness) paid his bail… why did he not pay his own bail. He’s a producer of a hit TV franchise. He’s an AA expert. He flew for a one-day vacation without any cash? No backup credit cards? That’s not even amateur territory.

    – he had no luggage (even if you’re going for one day wouldn’t you take toiletries, laptop, chargers, etc.?)
    – woman offered to sleep with him but he chose to take the flight instead
    – American arrested in Los Cabos
    – $300 for a beer
    – random family “bought him dinner” but all we hear is about a beer costing $300

    Too many things are wrong with this story. They don’t just “not add up”. They are plainly wrong with how things work in Mexico.

    Unless you’re a movie producer making up stuff to get your career back.

    Ehud Gavron
    Tucson AZ
    FAA CPL-H

  15. trvlnman

    January 22, 2020 at 11:52 am

    If you check out his Twitter feed you’ll discover he’s a former realty TV producer, millennial, Bernie Sanders supporter with over 20,000 tweets promoting progressive causes. These are facts, not a judgement. Now, for my opinion: He seems like an attention-seeker who loves social media.

  16. CaptRogerMurdoch

    January 22, 2020 at 2:21 pm

    Still seems like plenty of evidence to avoid Mexico – especially as a traveling-alone white American. You might as well paint a target on your back. I was actually contemplating Cabo, to check out Sammy’s club among others. But no thanks as a ubiquitous 7’2″ first officer.

    I would think the robbery/theft of the passport is the most egregious act in the story.

    I also wish you could prepay towards the next year/trip if you are close to the Dollars Qual threshhold. The “you can pay cash” to get MQDs and we’ll throw in 10 cents on the dollar in FFM is pretty lame. The airline could net out across the following year.

  17. SamirD

    January 22, 2020 at 11:01 pm

    Sammy’s club in Cabo is pretty cool, but nothing better than what you find here in the USA. Cabo itself is pretty nice until you get away from the resorts. But many of the locals work at the resorts and are very, very nice people who will steer you away from trouble. El Squido Roe is also an awesome place. Never been to a club like that before and had a blast. If I had to do it again, I would have just stayed at a better resort and enjoyed that. Or better yet, spent that same cash in the USA.

  18. DeltaFlyer123

    January 24, 2020 at 8:27 am

    I will go with Gavron’s post – there are a lot of questionable elements to this story. Even if it’s all true, then the wisdom of its author turns out to be the biggest question.

  19. lrbenko

    January 27, 2020 at 6:21 am

    Pretty funny, my colleague/ friend did a Cabo mileage run just before Jan 31st as well. He was shy around $800 MQD and searching on Google Flights, Cabo fit the bill. He flew in, staid at the Hampton Inn San Jose Del Cabo, had some dinner, drinks, and flew home the next day with zero issue. Sometimes you can be in the wrong place at the wrong time I guess.
    Personally, I’ve been to Cabo several times without any major issues.

  20. nyc_eagles

    January 27, 2020 at 10:55 am

    And this is why I’ll never go back to Mexico. Ripped off at a gas station and made to pay cash when credit card “didn’t go through” (thanks CC company for having my back) and pulled over by police when going the speed limit and having to pay a small bribe to leave… both on the same day. So many other places to go that offer the same or better without the BS that can ruin an otherwise good vacation.

  21. divrdrew

    January 27, 2020 at 5:02 pm

    While the story may seem a bit far fetched, based on what has happened to tourists in Mexico over the last year, I don’t find it at all surprising. I’ve been there a number of times without incident. Many of my friends have not been so lucky. It really boils down to wrong place at the wrong time.

    We know that police make you pay to resolve ‘issues’ that come up. We know that tourists are ripped off all the time. It happens.

    For someone to claim that just because we are American citizens, that we can get away with just about anything an not get arrested, you need to have a reality check. We have issues just as much as citizens of other countries. Sometimes, depending on the country, maybe even more than other countries.

  22. GlobalMatt

    January 27, 2020 at 5:35 pm

    I personally know this guy. I went to undergrad with him. Really nice guy. Could not have happened to a nicer guy. I can tell you that everything/every claim that happened here is entirely true.

  23. psusaver

    January 28, 2020 at 12:35 pm

    I’ll take ‘Things that did not happen” for $ 300.

  24. fish3d

    January 29, 2020 at 2:05 am

    Shame to see so many negative posts about Mexico. I’ve been going to the Yucatan and other parts of Mexico for over 40 years at least twice a year for weeks or sometimes longer. Even considered living there. I have paid off a couple of speeding tickets. The Mexican people are extremely hard working and honest . Only in the last two years have I picked up any negative vibes …since Trump started attacking the Mexican people.

  25. kirkwoodj

    January 29, 2020 at 5:36 am

    Either complete BS or he’s a total idiot. Based on his friend’s comment above, I guess idiot is the correct choice.

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