One Man Just Flew His 20 Millionth Mile on United

Three years ago a Chinese billionaire earned 2 billion Membership Rewards points in a single transaction but they were Hong Kong Membership Rewards points which are on a totally different scale (and it was probably an exercise in overcoming the regime’s currency controls).

A corrupt FIFA executive was found to have improperly earned at least 26 million American Express points. Randy Petersen called him a ‘piker’ compared to someone in the program who has well over 120 million.

Those are credit card points. Butt in seat flown miles are a whole different story.

I first wrote about Tom Stuker in 2009, and then again in 2011 when he crossed 10 million miles flown on United.

In 2009 he was flying 700,000 miles per year. By 2016 he had doubled that pace. In mid-2017 he hit his 18 millionth mile on United. And Zach Honig reports that yesterday he hit 20 million.

United celebrated at the gate before Stuker’s Newark – Los Angeles flight, and the crew made an onboard announcement passing out champagne to passengers when the flight crossed over Kansas City and Stuker crossed over 20 million miles flown.

There’s a great deal of mythology around Stuker. For instance,

  • In one story he completed the 1984 ’50 States in 50 Days’ promo flying to all 50 states on United after the airline had inaugurated Wilmington, Delaware service. The reward was a year of first class travel.

  • In another story he had purchased an unlimited travel pass years ago, so he hasn’t been buying tickets to fly these 20 million miles — and the more he flies, the more he earns, since his flights have earned miles (which he’s been said to cash in for gift cards since he doesn’t need to pay for his travel and he has plenty of points).

In any case, the man has a Titanium Global Services card and a United plane named after him.

Here he meets the other world’s most traveled man in Munich.

Stuker has flown to Australia over 300 times and goes to Hawaii 3-4 times each year. In 2017 he had flown “over 9000 flights” on United. And he’s the biggest fan of the airline — and especially its employees.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The guy obviously is free to spend his time, money and miles as he has pleases (and good luck redeeming those miles on United.) But 20 million miles on United, even sitting up front, is kind of like 20,000 meals at McDonalds – lots of empty calories, and there are lots of better things to do with your time and money.

  2. Truly amazing. Is he ever not on a United plane. 2,000,000 miles in a little over a year is like averaging what, 5,000 miles a day. Maybe my math is wrong but seems impossible.

  3. What does the guy do that has him flying that much?

    @DaninMCI – Great point. This guy puts air marshals (sorry to bring up the pet peeve, Gary) to shame.

  4. Why United, the most inhumane airline in the world?
    He shouldn’t support an airline that drags people out of airplanes.
    If I were him I’d just move to Singapore and fly that many miles on SQ.

  5. “In 2017 he had flown “over 9000 flights” ”

    That’s 25 flights per day. I don’t see how that’s possible.

  6. Great
    When hes dragged down the aisle they roll him onto a red carpet
    before coating him in tar and feathers
    I’m sure hes quite healthy dining on Uniteds world class catering
    Wonder if they will find him some saver seats ?

  7. dragging or rolling who cares?
    as long as it’s not him or me or you and we got to where we go & got the miles.

  8. Your second mythology bullet about his unlimited passplus membership isn’t a myth at all, it’s 100% fact. He flies UA for free and has since the early 90’s or late 80’s.

    Also, to all these commenters talking about UA dragging customers off the plane, I hope everyone realizes that DL did the exact same thing to a woman one DTW and several Asian carriers have been documented as doing similar things. In no way am I suggesting it’s right or even excusable but it’s not just UA here, they’re all terrible.

  9. @Bob — Well, there’s tons of things about the “Stuker story” that don’t make sense. There is no job — other than actually getting paid to fly — that would make his travel sensible. The auto dealer consultant story always feels more like a cover story than a reality. But how do you KNOW that he flies for free? I remember seeing a discussion about this once on flyertalk, and the moderators quickly shut it down and deleted posts. It seems like people want to “protect” Stuker — even United — but I’m not sure what they’re protecting him from. I’m not sure why his real story has to be a secret. If he actually flies for free, why does this have to be a secret?

  10. “In 2017 he had flown “over 9000 flights” ”
    “That’s 25 flights per day. I don’t see how that’s possible.”


    It’s poor phrasing. As of 2017, he’d flown over 9000 flights — which at the 18m miles noted for “mid-2017”, would be on average 2k miles per flight.

  11. Yeah Gary, give us the real story on Stuker. I just read through the thread literally dedicated to him on Flyertalk and folks treat him like a God for some reason. Sales consultancy doesn’t yield that much $$ to be flying weekly from East coast to Australia in Business class. Something is up.
    Also having bought a unlimited pass years ago doesn’t mean anyone is flying “free” just means they hedged money upfront for future flights. If this is the case he’s making great use of it.
    So come on Gary, dig up this guy’s real story.

  12. @ Olive — Right, the story doesn’t add up, but everyone “protects” Stuker. The way Gary writes this up, he seems to be among the people who know “the truth” but won’t say what it is. Cover-ups always make me more curious. And I don’t understand why there’s a cover-up. If Stuker has some sweetheart deal with UA, so what? That would be even more interesting!

  13. So if you piece together the information available on the web, it appears that Stuker bought a lifetime pass from UA about 30 years ago that gives him 2 full fare first class any time, anywhere in the world, any time. The second passenger has to accompany him. These are counted as full revenue tickets, and he earns (boatloads) of frequent flyer miles on them. In addition to giving away miles to friends. family and charities, he can buy gift cards with these miles and, presumably, sell those gift cards to put cash into his pocket.

    So, yes, unless these sources are wrong, Stuker’s primary business these days seems to be flying.

    Certainly interesting, but why is this kept “secret” by bloggers, airlines and everyone else?

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