Frequent Flier Reaches His 10 Millionth Mile

Frequent flyer Thomas Stuker will take a United Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Chicago Saturday, taking him to a total of 10 million miles flown. Host Scott Simon talks with Stuker, whose accumulated mileage equals about 400 trips around the world.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

SCOTT SIMON, host: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

A 2009 film, "Up in the Air," George Clooney plays an executive who flies around the country, firing people. Racking up frequent flier miles becomes a kind of personal obsession.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "UP IN THE AIR")

GEORGE CLOONEY: (as Ryan Bingham) Let's just say that I have a number in mind, and I haven't hit it yet.

ANNA KENDRICK: (as Natalie Keener) That's a little abstract. What's the target?

CLOONEY: (as Ryan Bingham) It's 10 million miles.

KENDRICK: (as Natalie Keener) OK. Isn't 10 million just a number?

CLOONEY: (as Ryan Bingham) Pi's just a number.

KENDRICK: (as Natalie Keener) Well, we all need a hobby. No, I- I- I don't mean to belittle your collection. I get it. It sounds cool.

SIMON: Sounds cool to Tom Stuker, too. This weekend, he'll reach 10 million frequent flier miles on United Airlines. Ten million miles.

Tom Stuker joins us from NPR West, where you've just come in from the airport. Right, Mr. Stuker?

TOM STUKER: Just landed from Sydney. And Scott, now the big difference - 10 million miles flown. As far as frequent flier miles, I've got about 50 million of those. So...

SIMON: Fifty million frequent flier miles?

STUKER: Yeah. Yeah, as far as the actual miles that you redeem. Yeah.

SIMON: OK, from things like buying a Weber grill with a credit card.

STUKER: Exactly. Or, yeah, rental cars or things like that.

SIMON: Mr. Stuker, are you in flight from the law?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SIMON: Or what moves you around the world so much?

STUKER: No. I just - I love travel. I mean, for a person who 25 years ago was scared to death to fly - I couldn't get on an aircraf; it really bothered me. But now it's evolved to a time where if I go week without a flight, I just feel something is not right. You know?

SIMON: Do you have a family?

STUKER: I've got my two boys here with me, here in L.A., to celebrate the flight tomorrow. So I'm really glad to spend some time with those two guys. And I'm currently with the woman of my dreams for 15 years. So...

SIMON: Oh, so you've been with someone for 15 years.

STUKER: Fifteen years. Actually, she's flown a million and a half miles with me at the same time. But pretty much all on honeymoons.

SIMON: Aww. Aww, you take more than one honeymoon it sounds like, right?

STUKER: Actually, we take about four or five a year. I figure, you know, if we focus on the honeymoon more, you know, then the relationship works out just fine.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SIMON: OK. So you're not a sad, pathetic wreck of a human being who is getting on airplanes to avoid living life.

STUKER: Oh, no. Are you kidding me? I get on a plane to maximize life.

SIMON: May I ask you, independently wealthy or what where...

STUKER: No, I'm you know, I...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

STUKER: Cause I spend all my money on travel, I think. You know, there's an old saying, Scott. It says: The guy that dies with the most toys wins. You know, my T-shirt is going to say: The guy that plays with the most toys wins.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

STUKER: So, you know, I don't want to put away millions and millions to give it to my kids. I want to enjoy life, you know, and share those things with my kids while my eyes are open. You know?

SIMON: Yeah. Now, you are part of this thing called United Airlines Global Services Program.

STUKER: Mm-hmm, yeah.

SIMON: That's up there with the Masons for being a kind of secret...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

STUKER: Yeah.

SIMON: ...secret membership.

STUKER: Well, it's an invitation based on a lot of different factors; probably with the overall value you have to the airline. But most importantly, probably a collection of your flight patterns and amount of monies you spend, and things like that. So...

SIMON: All right, so the big thing is - I've been told there's a number you call: no waiting, no holding. You know: Hi, Mr. Stuker, how are you? Where can I send you today?

STUKER: That hotline, there's like, up to 300 people on the other end. It's in Dearborn, Michigan. And when I call that line - what's nice is because of my relationship over the years, if I called up and picked up the phone right now, you know, I just say you know, good morning. How are you doing? And they're going: Oh hi, Mr. Stuker. Most of them know me by my voice when I call up. So...

SIMON: You know, I'd say the one perk you haven't gotten yet is a flight on Air Force One - unless there's something I don't know.

STUKER: I am not going to hold my breath on that one. Plus, you know, you don't get triple miles when you fly on that.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SIMON: Tom Stuker will pass 10 million frequent flier miles, taking a flight from L.A. to Chicago this week.

Thanks so much.

STUKER: Nice meeting you, Scott.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.