United Airlines flier Tom Stuker hits 23 million miles of travel after buying lifetime pass 1990

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He’s got the golden ticket.

Tom Stuker, 69, has covered more miles in the air than any individual traveler in history, with no plans on stopping.

After hitting 23 million miles of air travel, he owes his time in the sky to one purchase he made in 1990 when he snagged a United Airlines lifetime pass for a whopping $290k.

“Best investment of my life,” Stuker told the Washington Post.

And 33 years after the purchase, the car dealer consultant is still racking up miles and enjoying every second from his favorite seat, 1B.

Since the purchase, the New Jersey native has obtained an unimaginable amount of miles, which he can sell, trade, or auction — along with the perks of staying at luxurious hotels around the globe, exclusive meals at high-end restaurants, and weeks-long trips through Crystal Cruises.


When not in the air, Stuker can be found hanging around the exclusive United airport lounges across the globe as he waits to take off.
When not in the air, Stuker can be found hanging around the exclusive United airport lounges across the globe as he waits to take off.
Stefano Giovannini

He once went 12 consecutive days without sleeping in a bed after he flew from Newark to San Francisco, followed by a trip to Bangkok to Dubai and back — covering four trips around the world — and only leaving the skies the visit the United airport lounges, according to the outlet.

“If I spend more than a week in one place, I’m like, ‘I gotta get back in the air.’ I’m more afraid to be on the ground than in the air,” the frequent flier told The Post in 2019.

Stuker has been to over 100 countries using his unlimited United pass and even shares the wealth with his wife, taking her on over 120 “honeymoons.”

His love for flying started after visiting Australia in 1984 for work and “falling in love” with the country — revealing he’s been back over 300 times.


Stuker attends the MileagePlus Explorer Card Baggage Claim presented by Chase, Visa and United at Pioneer Court on September 1, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.
Stuker attending the MileagePlus Explorer Card Baggage Claim presented by Chase, Visa and United at Pioneer Court on September 1, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.
Tasos Katopodis

Stuker says he travels for travel’s sake — not for work or vacation.

“I mean why does Joey Chestnut eat hot dogs?” he asked of the competitive-eating champ. “I just really love everything about flying.”

Stuker even had the pleasure of having some celebrities as seatmates, like Janet Jackson, Steven Tyler, and Bill Murray — who he got to leave a personal voicemail to his brother.

With the thousands of United flights he’s taken, Stuker revealed he’s even seen four people parish while in the air.


Stoker's love for flying keeps him busy, and is known to stay in destinations for only a day, sometimes less.
Stoker’s love for flying keeps him busy and is known to stay in destinations for only a day, sometimes less.
Stefano Giovannini

“All heart attacks. I’d met a couple of them, too. Just died right in their seats. The last guy was up in business with me, Chicago to Narita [Tokyo],” he told the Washington Post.

“They covered him with a blanket and put the seat belt back on. What else could they do?”

In 2019 alone, the father of three “covered more than six trips to the moon” on 373 flights that covered 1.46m miles — the out-of-pocket cost being $2.44 million without his pass, the outlet reported.

Stuker’s accumulation of miles also pays off on the ground.

He acquired so many gift cards as a perk and once cashed in $50,000 worth of Walmart gift cards in a single day.


A Boeing 777-300ER  from United Airlines landing in Brussels.
A Boeing 777-300ER from United Airlines landing in Brussels.
Getty Images

In the 90s, the miles master bid 451,000 air miles during a charity auction and won a guest appearance on the hit sitcom “Seinfeld.”

His brother even reaped the benefits from his mileage after Stuker completely covered the cost of redoing his home.

When Stuker lands at one destination and has to rush to catch a connecting flight, United has a Mercedes waiting on the tarmac so he can cruise to his next gate in style.


Stuker at Spike TV's "2011 Video Game Awards" at Sony Studios on Dec. 10, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.
Stuker at Spike TV’s “2011 Video Game Awards” at Sony Studios on Dec. 10, 2011, in Los Angeles, California.
Getty Images

Even though it seems United Airlines would be fuming over Stuker’s frequent flights, it’s quite the opposite.

To show their appreciation to their beloved member, the airline stuck his name on two of their planes and asked for his input to help design the menu in their new Polaris clubs.

He’s even personally greeted by the operator when he calls the company’s 800 number.

The plane has left the terminal for those hoping to be as fortunate as Stuker and snag a United unlimited pass since the airline has discontinued the offer — with no plans of reinstating the golden air ticket.

However, Stuker has some advice for other frequent flyers this summer.

He says lying to the first flight attended you see onboard can help.

“She’s the head attendant. I always say, ‘I remember you! You gave us such great service last time. I wanted to thank you again.’ Even if I’ve never met her. I guarantee she’ll bring you all kinds of free stuff,” he told the outlet.

Stuker also recommends never checking a bag or overpacking for a flight, saying, “Every town has laundromats. And stores.”

If you’re looking to snag a particular seat, keep the seat map open on your phone when boarding to see if a blocked seat is available after the cabin doors shut and take it.

“They won’t care. They never sold it,” he revealed.

Finally, one tip that most travelers can get behind — never be the person using their phone without headphones.

“Whenever somebody takes a long business call on speaker, I always say, ‘Hey, next time you’re going to have all of us to your business meeting, bring doughnuts,’” he told the outlet.

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