Wow: Man Flies 22 Million Miles On United Airlines

A United Airlines passenger has put the frequent into frequent flier, by crossing the threshold of 22 million miles flown on a single airline. Who is this man, and how did he accomplish such a feat? Let’s explore.

United 787-10
A passenger has flown over 22 miles on a single airline. Photo: United Airlines

Who is the frequent flyer?

Tom Stuker managed to pass the 22 million mile cap on United Airlines this week, as he flew over the mid-west from Newark to Los Angeles.

The passenger had previously broken records such as 10 million miles in 2011 and 20 million miles in 2018. At the start, he was flying only around 700,000 miles per year, but according to some, he now is flying at double the rate and clocking up as much as 1.4 million miles a year.

While many passengers rack up miles through hotels, credit cards, and more, Tom has managed to do this through just flying onboard United. Meaning every mile earned is a mile spent in the sky.

The carrier celebrated his previous milestones with onboard champagne and a ground-based ceremony, with even United naming a plane after him. However, it seems like they are running out of ideas, and today it was just a simple meeting with United officers.

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily aviation news digest.

How did he fly so much?

To put into perspective how much Tom is flying, we need to translate these miles into actual trips. He has been flying for decades, completing a challenge to fly to all 50 states in 50 days back in 1984 on the carrier, and has been pushing it ever since.

To reach 22 million miles, Tom has said that he has flown from New York to Sydney Australia, well over three hundred times, and clocks in a trip to Hawaii roughly every three months. Likely he has flown every route there and back on United and probably has flown all the partner airlines that contribute to his mile score.

United 747
United named a Boeing 747 after him when he reached 10 million miles. Photo: United Airlines

How does he afford to fly?

Twenty-two million miles is a lot of miles, and if anyone were to pay for those miles outright, even in economy, it would cost a pretty penny. How does Tom manage to fly so much on the airline?

So far, Tom hasn’t precisely revealed his secrets, and there are many rumors as to his means. That contest to fly to all 50 states on United back in 1984 won him a free year of first-class travel, but since then, he has had to have bought at least a business class ticket for every flight.

It’s possible that he also bought a lifetime ticket with United back in the 1980s that allowed unlimited first class travel for, back then, $550,000.

Another possible theory is that, by this point, its great press for United to allow him to fly for free, and let him earn points. After all, to boast that you have a passenger that loves your airline so much that he has spent a significant chunk of their life flying you is a marketer’s dream.

As for all the points he earns? Tom spends them on gift cards to give to others.