As he entered the United Polaris Lounge, eyes turned as staff stood. Mr. Stuker was back, United’s most loyal customer in terms of miles traveled. He sat down at the table next to mine. We started chatting. Turns out we were heading to Cape Town together.
Flying to Cape Town With United’s Most Loyal Customer
Tom Stuker is world’s most frequent flyer. Many years he clocks in more than a million miles…all on United. Remember the movie Up In the Air? Yeah, that was based (loosely) on Stuker. He’s in the automative industry and mixes business and pleasure with every trip, often to the far-flung corners of the world for a quick meeting or meal before heading back to his home in Chicago.
In January 2019, Stuker passed 20 million lifetime miles on United. United recognized Stuker with the following video:
Recently he passed 22 million miles, underscoring just how much he travels:
While so much about 2020 might feel uncertain – one thing remains constant: MileagePlus member Tom S. is up in the air! ✈️
Tom – congrats and thank you for flying 2️⃣2️⃣,0️⃣0️⃣0️⃣,0️⃣0️⃣0️⃣ miles with us. 🎉🌎 pic.twitter.com/OCTp9WHaK4
— United Airlines (@united) September 14, 2020
He and his friend Kitty, a prolific traveler herself, were heading to Cape Town…for an hour.
How was he onboard? A perfect gentleman. Charming with the flight attendants and generally low maintenance. We did chat a couple times during the flight and agreed the grilled cheese sandwiches out of Newark left much to be desired.
When we landed in Cape Town we proceeded through passport control and customs, then snapped the following picture:
Then he headed right back upstairs to check-in for his return flight home.
Keep in mind, this trip was in early March, just before the pandemic really went global. Stuker, like all of us, was grounded. But he’s actually really turned this pandemic into a life-changing event, in a positive way. His travel has now resumed again but in a more thoughtful way. As he shared on Flyertalk:
“I was on the ground for about 10 weeks. That hasn’t happened for over 40 years. Actually it was 40 years since I was on the ground/home for over two weeks let alone 10. I live in New Jersey just outside Manhattan. At one point it was the COVID-19 epicenter of the world. Over 25,000 people have died from the virus within 50 miles of my home.
As the lockdown progressed, I knew my weight would/could go either way. I chose to focus on my health. My health had deteriorated (mostly because of my weight). It’s going on about five months since the shutdown started in New Jersey. I have lost 52 pounds (now 214). I feel great.I try to keep my calories to about 1500 per day and I walk like crazy….800,000 steps in May/400 miles plus….over 1 million steps in August/500 miles plus.
I’m eating better, cooking more and having a five month “honeymoon” with my wife. I’ve flown about a dozen segments over the last two months; 10 domestic and a trip to Mexico. Travel is sooo different, but it is what it is.
I’ll look forward to international travel when it comes, but it looks like that won’t be soon. Our country seems to have more cases of STUPID than COVID. I am 6,000 miles short of my 22 million. This will be my first time in six years that I haven’t flown 1 million BIS. Might end up that it it won’t ever happen again. Even if it get’s back to some sort of normal, I have moved my focus to other directions. I’m writing a book, going on the speaker circuit and want to travel the USA visiting family and friends. I will check back in later, but in the meantime, stay safe everyone and I hope to see you in “The Friendly Skies” soon!!!”
I’m proud of him, because I could not help but to note that he consumed a lot of food in the Polaris Lounge and again onboard. Kudos to him for realizing that our metabolism slows down and dealing with it in a responsible way.
He also offers helpful advice to road warriors (like me) on finding the proper balance:
“As I put on the weight ,on so many occasions, people would give me flying as an EXCUSE. ‘It’s so hard with all that flying!!’
C’mon people,let’s get real. Skinny people fly too!! It all gets down to calorie intake. You want a few glasses of wine? Then pass on the ice cream! You want the ice cream? Then pass on those extra glasses of wine! I didn’t in the past. I WILL in the future!!! Let’s do this!
I know all this stuff is free……but really? Let’s all chose life and living longer over all those free calories!, Looking for a bargain? How about extra days,months and years with your loved ones for no extra charge. I’m in……..are you?”
I’m in too!
There’s rumor that Stuker purchased an unlimited flight pass in the 1980s and does not have to pay for each trip. Our conversation did not broach that topic, but I’ll find out at some point. We have stayed in touch and Stuker is a class act. Tom, it was a pleasure to fly to Cape Town with you!