Frequent flyer notches up his first 10 million miles

By David Usborne

Even those nearest and dearest to Thomas Stuker would probably admit that he is no George Clooney. But like Ryan Bingham, the character played by the actor in the film Up In The Air, Stuker's flights around the world have seen him reach the milestone of 10 million miles (16 million km) on board a single American airline.

Stuker, a car sales consultant from Chicago, is discovering that becoming a 10 million-mile traveller is not something the airline, United, is going to let pass unnoticed.

Disembarking yesterday from the trip from Los Angeles to Chicago he was greeted by the airline's chief executive, Jeff Smisek, other executives and members of his family.

The plastic plane that Smisek gave him seemed small reward for the loyalty shown by Stuker, who reached his goal after taking 5962 flights. However, he already enjoys rewards for his supreme brand loyalty.

He has access to a special lounge at O'Hare airport in Chicago - where United is based - is upgraded to first class as a matter of routine and already has a plane named after him in the carrier's fleet.

He admits that if a week goes by without his getting on a plane he starts to get fidgety.

"People have vacation homes and I have United," he said.

"My family doesn't treat me as well as this, and I love my family."

While it took Stuker almost 20 years to accumulate his first 5 million miles, he needed only another 10 years to reach 10 million.

He also claims that while he has 50 million frequent-flier miles with United he is never worried that he will not find ways to spend them, whether on still more flights with his family or on other perks.

He once used his miles to buy the chance to play an extra on Seinfeld. He was visible in one episode, sitting in Jerry's favourite Manhattan restaurant.

United, which is merging with Continental, is using Stuker's moment of fame to the full.

The carrier is no doubt still smarting from the free advertising that its main rival in Chicago reaped from Up In The Air.

Ryan Bingham did his 10 million miles on American Airlines.

- INDEPENDENT

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