American traveler Tom Stuker must be a fan of musician Townes van Zandt because he believes that “To Live is to Fly.”
Some folks fly occasionally, some fly frequently, but traveler Tom Stuker of New Jersey flies incessantly. He is a man who has made frequent flying a lifestyle. According to the Washington Post, Stuker holds the world record for the most miles flown with United Airlines, 23 million miles and still counting.
23 million miles is the equivalent of traveling to the moon and back 48 times or flying around the globe 920 times. Stuker has flown to 100 countries, had more than 120 honeymoons with his wife, and even appeared on the TV show, “Seinfeld,” all because he loves flying. How did he do it?
How Did He Do It?
It began in 1990 when United Airlines offered a special offer: a lifetime pass for $290,000. This pass, no longer available, gave a flier unlimited access to first-class seats on any flight, as well as such other benefits as airport lounges, personal assistance, and priority boarding. Stuker, then a car dealership consultant, unhesitantly bought the pass and today says it was the “best investment of his life.”
He became a regular on United flights. Stuker flew for business and pleasure, sometimes multiple times per day. He never grew weary of traveling, enjoying the excitement of visiting new places and meeting new people. He once spent 12 days in a row without even sleeping in a bed, hopping from Newark to San Francisco to Bangkok to Dubai, and back again.
Millions Of Airline Miles
Stuker, now 69, has garnered millions of airline miles, which he used for more than just additional flights. He both traded and sold his miles with other travelers, and redeemed them for various gift cards, hotel stays, and more. He used 451,000 miles to enter an unusual auction, winning a guest appearance on his favorite hit TV show “Seinfeld.” Stuker played himself as a frequent flier who gets bumped from first-class by Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s character Elaine. He even used miles to renovate his brother’s house.
An Airline VIP
United Airlines treats Stuker like a VIP. The airline reserves a Mercedes for him on the tarmac when he needs to catch a connecting flight, greets him by name on their phone line, and invites him to provide feedback on their services. In 2011, UA even named a Boeing 747 when he hit 10 million miles.
The Silver Lining’s Cloud
Stuker’s love for flying has also brought him some risks and challenges. He has faced flight delays, jet lag, security issues, and health problems. Stuker has also missed some important family events and holidays because of his busy schedule. He has learned to cope though and made the best of every situation.
Apparently, Stuker has no intentions of slowing down. He continues to fly regularly, enjoying the adventure and luxury of first-class travel. He has no regrets about buying the lifetime pass, as it has given him the opportunity to see the world and live his dreams.