Tom Stuker as he deplanes from his flight at Chicago O'Hare
All photos by Benet J. Wilson
On Saturday, I got the chance to attend a very special event -- a party to congratulate United Airlines uberpassenger Tom Stuker on reaching 10 million (yes, million) Mileage Plus miles. And folks, he did this with JUST miles -- no bonuses, no miles from thing like credit card sales or hotel stays. To put it in perspective, since 1982, Stuker has flown the equivalent of 20 roundtrips to the moon -- and back.
So United decided to celebrate, and they went ALL out. There was coverage by all the local media, along with some of us reporter/blogger types. They had employees from Global Services and Stuker's Dearborn base. Capt. Denny Flanagan and frequent flyer guru Randy Peterson was there. And did I mention United CEO Jeff Smisek and EVP of Mileage Plus Jeff Foland were also there?
First, there were the gifts. Stuker was presented with a 10 million mile certificate and a titanium Mileage Plus card (I had bet on platinum). United created a special 10 million mile-branded vintage of his favorite wine -- Napa Valley's Mount Veeder Winery Cabernet Sauvignon -- and not only served it at the festivities, but had six magnums shipped to Stuker's home.
Smisek presented Stuker with a gorgeous Boeing 787 aircraft model, and told the crowd that the airline hoped to be flying the newest jet in the fleet by 2012. And parked next to the Red Carpet Club where the festivities were held was my favorite airplane -- the Boeing 747 – with Thomas J. Stuker across the front fuselage. And as an aside, I have not been shy about my dislike for the “new” United livery. But on a 747, it really does look great!
After the speech from Smisek, Stuker came up to give his remarks. You can listen to them on my admittedly shaky video of it – the sound is great. And what a classy speech it was. You could tell how devoted he is to United Airlines, and had some especially heart-felt words for the carrier’s employees, speaking about all the adversity they’ve faced and how they have remained true professionals. He got emotional several times, but always managed to keep it together.
After that, it was time to eat and drink. I chatted with my fellow writers. I took pictures and schmoozed with all the celebrities. And I just avoided making a fool of myself when I met Capt. Flanagan. All in all, it was a great day and a wonderful celebration of an amazing milestone.
Me with CEO Jeff Smisek