A large amount of the people we see fired in the film are not actors but people who were recently laid off. The filmmakers put out ads in St. Louis and Detroit posing as a documentary crew looking to document the effect of the recession. When people showed up, they were instructed to treat the camera like the person who fired them and respond as they did or use the opportunity to say what they wished they had. A way to discern who are the actors and who are the real people is that the real people do not have dialogue with George Clooney or Anna Kendrick, as they were shot separately. Jason Reitman did this intentionally, feeling that the real people would freak out Clooney and Kendrick.
The card that Alex (Vera Farmiga) is so impressed by (that Ryan Bingham has) is the American Airlines invitation-only Concierge Key. After the film was completed, Jason Reitman was invited into the program. Started in 2007, it helps members arrange for reservation changes, upgrades, and even airport meetings. It is sent to selected customers, and since it is not advertised, some travelers consider it a rumor.
In 2010, George Clooney, who played a character named Ryan Bingham, was only nominated for an Oscar (as an Actor in the Leading Role), while that same year a real-life person named Ryan Bingham won an Oscar for the song "The Weary Kind" he wrote together with T-Bone Burnett that featured in Crazy Heart (2009).
When Alex is at the Atlanta airport she asks Ryan if he knows a good place for ribs. Ryan tells her to go to Fat Matt's - a real rib shack on Piedmont Avenue. Director Ivan Reitman is a big fan of the restaurant. In return owners Matt and Kelly Harper presented Reitman with a card entitling him to a "lifetime of ribs."
Jason Reitman began writing the screenplay in 2002 when the economy was booming and planned to make it as his first feature. The opportunity to make Thank You for Smoking (2005) and Juno (2007) presented themselves and he put this off until this year, meanwhile America plummeted into an economic recession. He said the film's tone changed completely in response to the real world crisis and works much better now as a topical piece than it would have a decade ago, the delays in its realization being fortuitous.
There are no special privileges awarded by American Airlines for reaching 10 million miles as depicted in the movie - this was a case of artistic license by the filmmakers. However, American (like almost all major airlines with frequent flier programs) does offer special status for reaching 1 million miles. As of 2009, it is estimated that about 400,000 frequent fliers worldwide have reached this plateau in at least one airline's program. In addition, many airlines - American included - have special invitation-only programs for their most valued customers, usually CEOs who can direct a lot of revenue their way. Perks include faster check-in, escorts to make close connections, and in rare cases free private flights to replace canceled ones.
While at Lambert Field in St Louis, Ryan tries to make an impassioned speech to Natalie about Charles A. Lindbergh's plane 'The Spirit of St Louis'. Officially, Lindbergh's plane was a Ryan NYP (New York to Paris) so the two share the same name. As a tribute to Charles Lindbergh, the airport displays a prop Spirit of St. Louis used in the James Stewart movie of the same name.
Vera Farmiga used a body double for her nude scene. In an interview she stated she has no problems being naked in a film but she had recently given birth and "The breast milk running down would have been inappropriate".
The newspaper headline "Cougars Take State" appeared in the Waupaca Daily Times. There is no newspaper in Waupaca, WI called the Daily Times. (Also, the Waupaca school mascot is the Comets, not the Cougars.)
Both screenwriters Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner never met or even knew from each other during writing the screenplay. When the novel was released in 2001, Turner read it and wrote a spec script adaptation which he sold to Dreamworks in 2003. However, Reitman also discovered the book and persuaded his father Ivan Reitman to acquire the film rights. Ivan Reitman then commissioned a screenplay by writers Ted Griffin and Nicholas Griffin who used some elements from Turner's spec script. Finally, Jason Reitman developed his own screenplay by using some elements from the Griffin script that (unbeknownst to Reitman) originated with Turner. Reitman initially claimed a single screenplay credit for himself but the WGA ruled that he should share his credit with Turner as certain elements of his spec script remained in the film.
Sam Elliott has a small part as a pilot who personally congratulates Ryan on finally achieving his coveted mileage award. In a deleted scene on the DVD, there is a shot of the airline's promotional poster on a wall with a picture of Elliot as the airline pilot. Like many such posters, it includes a quote attributed to his character (Maynard Finch), but the name given after the quote is "Sam Elliot", NOT the character's name.