“Matthew, you want to get your steps in with me at Honolulu?,” Tom Stuker asked. I wasn’t sure quite what he meant but soon found that United’s most frequent flyer compensates for his many hours sitting on airplanes with a flurry of physical activity…and productivity…during his layovers.
A Layover With Tom Stuker In Honolulu
After landing in Honolulu, we headed upstairs to the United Club, dropped our bags off, then headed outside. Honolulu is a unique airport that features many outdoor areas, taking advantage of the lovely year-round weather in Hawaii. Outside the club on the upper level of the Diamond Head concourse are several sliding doors that open onto an upper driveway.
For the next 90 minutes, at a fairly rapid rate, I walked laps with Stuker. Back and forth, back and forth, the goal was 10,000 steps. Stuker remains busy with his work and charities and was on the phone for much of the time so at one point I gave him some distance so he could make phone calls and I could too.
While I walked over to the gardens, he continued his laps and about two hours after we landed, we both sunk down into our chairs in the United Club, enjoying a well-earned Mai Tai…from a bartender he is on a first-name basis with. They chatted like they had known each other for years. Because they have…
Here’s the thing about Stuker: I understand him. That’s why we quickly became friends. I think many of you may wonder why someone would possibly fly so much. Others may pity him – so much time away from his family, so much time on an airplane, even if in business class.
But even 23 million miles later, there is a smile on his face as he boards each flight. Airport gate agents, lounge agents, and flight attendants have become part of his extended family. I’ve now flown with Stuker several times and the gate agents and flight attendants always welcome him by name. What a great hobby…what a better alternative to watching sports on TV or scrolling through social media.
But all this recognition has not gone to his head. Stuker is a humble and kind man, sensitive and conscientious. That’s what I like about him and that’s why I hope to fly with him many times in the years ahead.
And keep in mind it’s not like he just zones out and watches movies or sleeps onboard. Like me, he finds being confined in a metal tube at 35,000 feet to be among his most productive time…I love flying exactly for that reason.
What started as frequent work trips to Australia has become a mix of work and pleasure, but if you’ve read my blog you know I’ve done “mileage runs” for 17 years and to see Stuker take mileage runs to a whole different level brings a smile to my face as well.
Stuker is a man after my own heart and I admire what he has accomplished and his continued embrace of doing what he loves. But in case you were wondering how he avoids blimping out when he spends weeks at a time on airplanes eating and sleeping, he always gets his steps in…his layovers are productive.
This is an interesting series of posts to follow.
Typo: “Matthew, you want to get your steps in with me at Honolulu?,” Tom Suker asked.
“[D]ropped our bags off”? You really felt comfortable leaving bags unattended for that long? Or is bag storage a perk of visiting with Mr. Stuker?
We did. Perhaps too risky, but a risk I was comfortable with.
@ Matthew — Well, drinking a 12-pack of beer a day could be described as a hobby. It could also be described as a mental illness.
True, but drinking 12 beers has immediate disastrous effects on health.
@ Matthew — Well, it usually takes 15-30 years to cause said disastrous effects.
Not unless you stumble into a street and get hit by a car….
This is why United is the best airline!
The airline is full of great people and great customers!
This guy sounds like a modern day Jacques Vroom or Steven Rothstein, except without the AAirpass.
What a cool experience. Thanks Matthew:-)
I’ve seen pictures of the guy. He’s not healthy. He’s overweight and looks like he could have a stroke and any moment.
He lost a tremendous amount of weight during the pandemic.
I’m fully in the pity him camp. Anyone who willingly spends that much time away from family, kids, etc, I pity them.
Even, if I granted all of Matthew’s points…why in Gods name would anyone willingly choose to spend that much time on a mediocre (to put it kindly) US airline.
So Tom was doing a mileage run to Hawaii and if so, why?!
To cross 23 million miles.
Many who do Mileage Runs (MRs) have a specific goal in mind: elite status or RDMs for an award. Stuker has lifetime status and it’s been written that he pays for his flights and gives his RDM away. Why does he (still) do MRs?
I’ve met Stuker twice and had two extended conversations with him. What struck me was how much he talked about his “hobby” and how little he talked about his job and his family. And I wouldn’t call him “humble, but YMMV.
And EAT LESS. In fact, skip a meal. But traveling the way you do and having access to FOOD around the clock, it’s impossible to eat less. Being skinny and young (like you are Matthew) is protective but once you get to be over 50 or 55 yrs old, it is vitally important to eat less, avoid alcohol, and avoid processed food and sugar to stay healthy. And sleep more. If not, this lifestyle may cause obesity and diabetes. Exercise alone won’t be enough to stay healthy.
I’m with you, @Matthew. I did my first MR in 1994 – 8 OAK-LAX round-trips in a weekend. At that point, I had no concept of the possibility of international MR’s, which wound up evolving into 2 SFO-SIN roundtrips (via NRT/HKG) in a weekend. I have kids now, so I don’t do them as often, plus the PQP rules make them less useful, but I’ll occasionally top the year up if I’m short.
For me, they’re a way to recharge my batteries. I love being on planes, and always have.
had a couple of flights with him from HNL-NRT and LAX-MEL and once was behind him in 2A on the MEL flight and we had a nice chat in the lounge and friendly exchanges the whole time during the flight always advising me which meals were better and his movie reviews. On the flight out of MEL we saw each other again and ha gave me a hug like a lost friend and exchanged small talk on what happened in MEL and he said, oh watch this flight and sure enough, he crossed over the 21m mark with an announcement and a cake that was shares by everyone in the front cabin. Super nice chill guy.
Matthew, I’ve been a United Red Carpet/United Club member for maybe 50 years or more. Do you know of a way to find out just how many years I have been a member? “Volare'”
Hi Dave, I do not know. Have you sent an email to United?
For some reason, the Guinness book of world records is not allowing Tom to even apply for an existing and active record,
“most air miles flown by a passenger.”
It’s currently being held by Fred Finn. I believe Tom has shattered Fred’s mark by nearly 10 million miles.
Someone in the media should get to the bottom of why Tom is not even allowed to apply and present his evidence that he is clearly the record holder for most air miles flown by a passenger.
This is preventing Tom from getting endorsements for luggage, hotels, Airlines, and rental cars just to mention a few.
United Airlines would gladly back him on providing the evidence. It is quite baffling why #guinnessworldrecords is presenting him from applying?
Thanks Bill. I’ll reach out to Tom.