5,962 flights, 10 million miles: car salesman flies into the record books
Monday 11 July 2011
Even those nearest and dearest to Thomas Stuker would probably admit that he is no George Clooney. But like the character played by the actor in the film Up In The Air, Mr Stuker's flights around the world have seen him reach the milestone of 10 million miles on board a single US airline.
Mr Stuker, a car sales consultant from Chicago, is discovering that becoming a 10 million-mile traveller is not something the airline, United, is going to let pass unnoticed.
Disembarking late on Saturday from the trip from Los Angeles to Chicago that took him past the mark, he was greeted by the airline's chief executive, Jeff Smisek, other executives and members of his family.
The plastic plane that Mr Smisek gave him seemed small reward for the loyalty shown by Mr Stuker, who reached his goal after taking 5,962 flights, most of them visiting car dealerships in the US and around the world. Put together, those flights would circle the Earth 400 times.
However he has already enjoyed rewards for his supreme brand loyalty. He has access to a special lounge at O'Hare airport in Chicago – where United is based – is upgraded to first class, with its feather pillows, champagne and personal service, as a matter of routine and already has a plane named after him in the carrier's fleet.
As for being identified as the real Ryan Bingham – the character played by Clooney who seeks meaning in his life through continuous travel – Mr Stuker might balk a little.
He doesn't have a woman in every port and his story promises to end happily. Nor does he tire of the flying and he admits that if a week goes by without his getting on a plane he starts to get fidgety.
"People have vacation homes and I have United," he told ABC News in an interview a few months before his 10 million-mile achievement. "My family doesn't treat me as well as this, and I love my family."
While it took Mr Stuker almost 20 years to accumulate his first five million miles, he needed only another 10 years to reach 10 million.
He also claims that while he has 50 million frequent-flier miles in his account with United – points accumulate much faster than actual miles flown when you have his kind of elite status – he is never worried that he will not find ways to spend them, whether on still more flights with his wife and family or on other perks.
He once used his miles, for example, to buy himself the chance to play an extra on the US television sitcom Seinfeld. He was clearly visible in one episode, sitting in Jerry's favourite Manhattan restaurant.
United, which is in the process of merging with Continental, is using Mr Stuker's moment of fame to the full. The carrier is no doubt still smarting from the free advertising that its main rival in Chicago reaped from Up In The Air. Ryan Bingham did his 10 million miles on American Airlines.
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