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The gift-giving season is upon us, and let’s face it: It’s a joyful time, but it can be a stressful time too. Even for American Airlines customers, who obviously have very discerning taste, finding the right gift for everyone on the list is a challenge.

In my experience, the hardest people to shop for are young adults. Trying to select clothes, books, music, or anything else they’ll like is a veritable minefield. The potential for awkwardness or even embarrassment on both sides of the exchange is high. But you don’t have to put yourself through that. Here’s my completely unbiased advice: Give travel! Instead of opening something they’ll stick in a drawer and forget , the people you care about will have an experience they’ll remember for years to come.

Travel is a particularly good gift for young adults who have limited means and are trying to find their way in the world. “Find your passion; then follow it,” they have been told. But where to look? I say look everywhere. Coming from an airline CEO, that’s a convenient suggestion, but as you are a traveler yourself, I’m sure you agree that the more young people experience of the world, the more they will discover about themselves and their true interests.

I know what some of you are thinking: You love your niece or nephew but your gift budget calls for a sweater, not a trip to Shanghai. Fair enough. But consider this: At American Airlines, we offer a number of ways for friends, family members, and loved ones to pitch in without necessarily paying for an entire trip. AA Gift Cards can be bought and redeemed at AA.com in any denomination between $50 and $1,500. You can buy a plastic card and have it mailed to the person it’s for, or you can have a virtual card delivered to the giftee via e-mail. Recipients can use up to eight Gift Cards at one time toward the purchase of travel throughout our global network. If Gift Cards aren’t your style, we also have the giftAAmiles program, whereby AAdvantage members can purchase miles and give them as gifts to other AAdvantage members. There’s also the shareAAmiles program, which enables members to transfer miles from their existing balance to that of an AAdvantage member of their choosing. All the details are available at AA.com.

Of course, some of the people on your list probably travel all the time. For them, what better gift is there than an Admirals Club membership? Every time they relax in the quiet comfort of our clubs -- and we have dozens spread all over the world -- they’ll think of you. One-year memberships can be bought at AA.com or at any Admirals Club. And if a full membership seems a bit on the extravagant side, One-Day Passes are also available.

To me, travel is simply the perfect gift for anyone, young or old. It has been said that we travel the world in search of what we need and return home to find it. Exploration. Discovery. Adventure. And a renewed appreciation of home. That sure beats a sweater or a fruitcake!

Whether today’s journey is taking you someplace new and exotic or someplace familiar, like home, we are happy and appreciative that you have chosen to fly with us. On behalf of everyone at American Airlines, happy holidays and the best of everything in 2009.

Signature of Gerard Arpey
Gerard J. Arpey
Chairman & CEO
American Airlines