Travel tips abound online about how to rack up frequent flier miles to score business-class flights and other perks.
But they don’t apply to Tom Stuker from New Jersey, the world’s most frequent flier who has flown more than 23 million miles, or more than 12,000 flights as of July 2022. And counting.
His accumulated miles have seen him travel all over the world, stay in lavish hotel suites and even appear on an episode of the US sitcom Seinfeld.
Just how did the car dealership consultant do it?
Simple – he bought a lifetime pass by United Airlines for US$290,000 in 1990, and hasn’t looked back since.
Thirty-three years later, he has been to 100 countries and gone on more than 120 honeymoons with his wife. According to the Washington Post, Stuker’s mileage in 2019 alone could have covered more than six trips to the moon.
No wonder he calls his purchase “the best investment of my life”.
According to the report, he once went 12 straight days without sleeping on a bed, when he just kept jetting from Newark to San Francisco to Bangkok and Dubai and back again – equivalent to four trips around the world.
Aviation news website Simple Flying said Stuker spent between 200 and 250 days a year in the air before COVID-19 halted air travel around the world.
For Stuker, being a loyal customer has more than the usual perks.
United Airlines has put his name on two planes and let him help design the menu at their premium Polaris clubs. It even has a Mercedes ready on the tarmac to ferry him to his next gate when he has to make a quick connection.
The first major milestone came in 2009, when he became United’s first passenger to hit 10 million miles, during a Los Angeles-Chicago flight, according to Simply Flying. And when he reached the 20-million-mile mark in 2019, United celebrated the occasion with him onboard, offering champagne to his fellow passengers.