Former ‘Bachelor’ Producer Took An American Airlines Mileage Run And Wound Up In A Mexican Prison

Andrew Kimmel arrived home in Los Angeles after his last trip of the year to find that he had over 125,000 qualifying miles with American Airlines – but was still about $250 short of the 15,000 qualifying dollars needed for Executive Platinum status.

American will let you ‘buy up’ or ‘buy back’ your status, but Kimmel – a producer for The Bachelor & The Bachelorette between 2012 and 2015, and before that a field producer for Dancing With The Stars – reports that they wanted $1875 for him to keep his status. So he embarked on a mileage run instead.

Although in this case the modern mileage run is often no longer about earning miles, but about forking over money to the airline. He bought a $400 roundtrip to Los Cabos and made a night of it.

He ran right into a common scam that regular travelers know well. In China it’s the tea ceremony scam. In Mexico, apparently, it’s a beer scam. Buy something, get presented with a bill that’s 20 times what it should be – and the police are in on it.

The bar manager took his passport and debit card. The police took him “to a jail somewhere outside of Cabo.” The police promised they’d only be locking him up for 30 minutes. They didn’t say 30 minutes from when. Three hours go by… and then “several hours” more.

He was bailed out by a stranger who had also been in jail, on charges of not paying her Uber driver. I know Uber accepts cash in some cities, including in Mexico, but didn’t know specifically that this was the case here.

The problem is that while Kimmel is now out of the Mexican jail, he doesn’t have his passport – that’s still held by the bar owner. He goes to the airport anyway. The local embassy is closed, he can’t get an emergency passport in person – and he’s got to make his flight home in any case because otherwise he won’t earn the needed qualifying dollars for Executive Platinum status. He’ll probably be about 70 short. (Airlines used to reliably offer a modest ‘grace’ amount, say 500 miles.)

He says that showing his ID and a photocopy of his passport, “gets on the line with CBP and somehow arranges for me to jump on the last flight out without a passport.” A U.S. citizen can enter the U.S. without their passport but it will generally involve a whole lot of questioning at the border. I’m surprised, if this story is true as told, that he was permitted to board a flight without his passport so easily however.

Somehow the woman who bailed him out is still with him at the airport, and in the middle of all of this drama they begin kissing? As if I was skeptical about elements of this story already now I’m not buying it. It’s late afternoon in Mexico, the guy has no passport, and a random Kenyan woman he just met is kissing him? She even tells him that if he can’t get out that night that he can spend the night with her?

Here’s what American had to say in response.

The bar owner stole several hundred dollars from him running his debit card. But somehow he made it back to the U.S., requalifying for Executive Platinum status.

Congratulations Mr. Kimmel, and maybe when we’re just short of qualifying dollars airlines would let us just send them the cash? In this case though I’d have suggested a simple domestic same day roundtrip, easy enough to spend $400.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. What a moron. Apparently, he’s never heard of LAX-SFO or LAX-LAS. If this story was actually true, he deserved to spend a year in a Mexican jail.

  2. He finally wanted to be his own star as the Bachelor. Clearly this entire thing is made up. If you believe this story you’re not starting the new year off using your brain 🙂

  3. How did he get back from an international flight without a passport and dissembarks on the domestic side?

  4. Don’t forget about AAs tone deaf tweet after he had only posted 2 paragraphs of the full story. Whether his story is 100% or not, their social team needs to be fired.

  5. That entire story is a put on. Sounds like he put that together with the American Airlines social media team. You got fooled on this one Gary

  6. @robertw, fooled? “As if I was skeptical about elements of this story already now I’m not buying it. ”

    As for being put together with AA social media, their twitter team appears to look bad here, no?

  7. After a year of close to 150,000 on AA and havijng more flight with ground crew mischief than not, I think AA needs a new slogan, such as “Make American Airlines Great Again” or “Be Bester (sic).”

  8. True or not, this nonsense only further confirms that special statuses and the Twitter-verse have reached the realm somewhere between absurd and pathetic.
    No wonder the poor ol’ planet is in such bad shape.
    Flying isn’t decent any longer, much less pleasant or special. Airlines are perpetrators of complex shell games, aided and abetted by publicity hounds.

  9. As an airlines that operates dozens of flights a day to the country, its hard to believe that AA would benefit from the perception that travel to Mexico is unsafe.

  10. Always have a copy of your passport in your luggage and scan a pdf copy and jpg copy to your email with a password on it.

  11. To add to Tomri’s comment. Agreed. Also, when I travel, I keep a passport card in my wallet. I figure it would make it easier to get a new passport or prove my identity in the event my passport got stolen. Any my wallet is the Pacsafe wallet on a chain, so it is harder to steal.

    In the case above, you can go across the USA and Canada border on land with the passport card.

  12. I did the same, went to Mexico City for a little over 24hrs. $1250 short, but the status is amazing to have and I love American!

  13. Umm before writing your article maybe you should actually do some basic due diligence. If you had you would know that AA tweet was in only in response to his first tweet. All his other tweets where he detailed his story came after the AA response you cited. Your article makes it seem like this AA tweet was AA’s response to his entire story which it clearly wasn’t. If you actually looked at the twitter feed you would have seen this response from AA as well “@andrewkimmel
    Oh no, Andrew. We’re so sorry, we only saw the one tweet where you included our handle. We will meet you in DMs”. Sure go ahead and try to make AA look indifferent.

  14. what can you expect from someone who is/was associated with the tv show ” Bachelor”?

  15. Between the powerful and violent Mexican drug cartels, corrupt police and Mexican government officials, kidnappings, spiked/poisoned alcoholic drinks served to American tourists leading to rape/assault at some resorts, etc., I’m not sure why anyone would want to support tourism in that (borderline) failed state of a country. I’ve been to Ecuador, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico and would like to see Argentina, Peru, and Brazil, but I don’t ever plan to visit Mexico.

  16. Mandatory car insurance in Cabo is exorbitant. I have had a $75 rental car rate that turned to $500 with their ridiculous insurance NOT covered by a cc.
    So his reported $35 car fee cannot be right.

    Mexico taxes, too (on a short flt esp) are high! Def fly domestic on a quick mileage run.

  17. About 7 years back, I forgot my US passport in a remote location in Australia. I realized this only after making it to Sydney airport for my international flight as you do not need ID to fly domestic in Australia. I was able to convince immigration to let me leave Australia without my passport and upon arrival into San Francisco, I went to secondary screening and after about 15 minutes, they let me enter the country.

  18. Hey Gary! Andrew here. There are several inaccuracies in your article. I’d be happy to chat and go over… just wish you messaged me before posting this. Thanks!

  19. Takes a special brand of moron to chose Mexico for a mileage run. You qualify if you then go out and hit a few bars after dinner. Has this guy ever done any research on how things are in Mexico?

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