Thomas Stuker, a 58 years old American businessman, has been rewarded for his loyalty to the airline company “United Airlines” after accumulating 10 million air miles.
For 29 years this salesman has boarded 5,962 United Airlines flights and flown the equivalent of 400 times around the globe. As a result he will never have to queue at airports, always get upgraded, and a plane has been named after him.
In 2009, Thomas Stuker was already United’s top flier. As he remarked at Time magazine at the time, “when I call the 800 number in Michigan, most of the time I don’t even have to introduce myself, they know me. I got my own 1-800 KISS MY ASS hotline”.
Before been rewarded for the ten million miles, Stuker had also enjoyed elite services during his flights over the years. As he explained at the Time´s interview, he enjoyed $500 of free wine one Christmas and another time, a gourmet dinner at Chicago’s Tru for two (“They even let me pick the wine, which they might not do again”). He even had a United-sponsored appearance as a diner on Seinfeld (“I just sat there; they didn’t want me to talk”).
In the interview at the outlet media he stated that when he reaches the 10 million miles he will do it in style. “It won’t be on a flight to Des Moines or Omaha, I’ll take a bus before I cross the mark on one of those flights. It’s going to be an international flight, probably Europe with my girlfriend. I’m going to plot it out exactly and know when I hit it. And hell yeah, there is going to be champagne.”
However, sometimes life is not exactly as people expect it. Plans can change. Now, three years after that interview, Stuker has made his dream come true but not as he wished. Mr Stuker reached the milestone after arriving to his native Chicago, not to Europe, on the 9th of July.
Despite this great achievement before boarding the flight to Chicago, Mr Stuker admitted that many years ago he was scared to death of flying. “I couldn’t get on an aircraft, it really bothered me,” he told America’s National Public Radio.”But now it’s evolved to a time where if I go a week without a flight something’s not right.”
“Up in the air” goes down to the earth
Mr Stuker´s feat may resemble the movie “Up in the Air” starring George Clooney. However, in this case it seems that reality doesn´t go above and beyond fiction. In the film when Bingham (played by George Clooney) hits his 10 million-mile goal during a flight from Chicago to Omaha he receives a surprise champagne celebration onboard, and American Airlines’ chief pilot appears for a congratulatory sit-down visit.
Bingham also receives an instant upgrade: a personally engraved metal card that will allow him to directly access his own private operator, someone who will greet him by name.
As Stuker, other people have hit this milestone before him. Unfortunately, non of them have received as good services as Clooney does in his movie. In 2007, Phillip Dunkelberger, the president of a data protection firm, went over 10 million miles in his flight to Zurich. As he stated to the Time magazine, ”I knew this trip would put me over 10 million miles.”
According to Dunkelberger, his Executive Platinum status with American is “pretty sweet”. Among its advantages on the one hand, it offers upgrades, lounge access and a 100% flight mileage bonus (meaning he doubles his miles with each trip). On the other hand, if he wants to keep these privileges he must also hit certain mileage marks each year.
Another American that once crisscrossed the skies reaching the ten million miles is Jerold Solovy, who had been flying American Airlines for 64 years. He cannot even remember when he crossed the 10 million mile mark. “I wasn’t keeping track,” he said to Time magazine. “American Airlines wrote me a nice letter. They advised me I crossed. They keep me posted.”
He admitted that he expected more than a letter. Still, he was proud of the status it affords him. “I go to O’Hare and LaGuardia and they treat me royally. I know everyone and they are very nice to me,” said Solovy.
Real life doesn’t provide definitely the amazing party that Clooney enjoys for actual 10 million miles, though certainly get treated well. With the rewards points all of them can travel to any international destination several times a year. And what it is more important as Solovy said to the Time magazine, “I don’t know what they did for Mr. Clooney; for me I get good service, they get me where I want to go and when I want to get there.”