Look Out, George Clooney: Traveler Reaches 10 Million Frequent Flier Miles

  • Share
  • Read Later
Gary Hershorn / Reuters

Meet Thomas Stuker. The sales consultant from Chicago just hit the magical 10 million mile mark after taking 5,962 flights with United, which, if you hadn’t already figured it out, is the equivalent of 400 trips around the globe. Makes you feel better about your two-hour layover en route to your summer vacation destination, doesn’t it?

Stuker is essentially the real-life Ryan Bingham, who was the character played by George Clooney in the 2009 movie Up In The Air. Most of Stuker’s journeys take him around the U.S. as part of his job, which involves him traveling to and from car dealerships. It took him 29 years to amass the staggering tally, but he only needed the past 10 years to get from five to 10 million. Sounds like somebody likes the free nuts.

Joking aside and Stuker need never want for anything air-related for the rest of his days. Thanks to being part of United’s secretive Global Services high-mileage program, he doesn’t have to wait in line when he gets to the airport, has access to a special lounge at the airlines hub in Chicago, receives an automatic first-class upgrade and  (how cool is this?) even has a plane named after him on the United Airlines fleet.

(PHOTOS: See Things Money Can Buy)

“People have vacation homes and I have United,” he told ABC News. “My family doesn’t treat me as well as this, and I love my family.”

The momentous event took place on Saturday, on the Los Angeles-Chicago flight. Stuker was greeted by United’s CEO Jeff Smisek, other executives and members of his family (who may not be so forgiving in light of what he told ABC).

Stuker has admitted that he used to be petrified by flying. “I couldn’t get on an aircraft, it really bothered me,” he told NPR. “But now it’s evolved to a time where if I go a week without a flight something’s not right.” Stuker has flown so much that he’s also attained lifetime gold, million-miler status on American Airlines. But United really is his first love: At their Los Angeles first class lounge, he is “treated like a king,” thanks to his favorite drink — a Bacardi and Diet Coke — always waiting for him. And when he leaves, the staff  knows to give him a doggie bag of his favorite snack for the next flight: chips and guacamole.

Speaking of food, Stuker recently ate 23 meals in a row onboard (anyone who does that should be given 10 million miles without question) and even had the audacity to remark that, “toward the last day or two, I asked to switch my first class meal to a coach meal to try something different.”

As for life imitating art, in Up In The Air, Clooney’s Ryan Bingham admits that he wants to reach the 10 million mile mark. “I’d be the seventh person to do it. More people have walked on the moon,” Bingham said. Not only has Stuker got there but he’s now got enough air miles to go to the moon. (via ABC News)

PHOTOS: The 2011 Paris Air Show

Glen Levy is an Executive Producer at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @glenjl. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

0 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest