With all the press hooha about Thomas Stuker clocking up 10 million air miles, one fact seems to be unreported.
Who the heck does he work for?
Checking the internet, you find out that Stuker only flies with United, loves his chosen airline, is treated like a prince when he boards and the frequent flyer was recently congratulated on his loyalty (and, one imagines, his travel budget) by United CEO, Jeff Smisek.
He’s the “real-life Ryan Bingham” the press said, referring to George Clooney’s character in the film Up In The Air. Other reports gasp that Stuker, a car salesman from Chicago, has taken 6,000 flights over the last 29 years and has flown the equivalent of 400 flights around the Earth.
Nowhere have I seen a mention of the company he works for, or who his boss is. Nor have I seen a total figure for the spending on this enormous amount of air travel.
Whoever his boss may be, the guy should hang his head in shame! What in the world is he thinking, paying for a salesman to fly nearly 350,000 miles a year? What work could possibly justify that expense? Hasn’t the boss, or the company’s financial officers, heard of phone, email, videoconferences and teleconferencing?
If the company has shareholders it’s not hard to imagine their glum faces as they look at the pictures of Stuker being feted onboard by United’s air hostesses. An awful lot of company dollars must have been needlessly spent on flying Stuker all over the States and around the world. It’s true that face-to-face business meetings and signing contracts require a representative’s physical presence and most businesses have a realistic travel budget to cover the costs of driving and flying. But 10 million miles worth…..?
Quite apart from the environmental impact of business travel on this absurd scale, the effect on the bottom line – on profits – must be huge. How much has Stuker brought into the company in profits while he’s been winging his way merrily around the world? Whatever the sum is, how much of it really required him to fly millions of miles. If I were a shareholder in that company, I’d want some pretty clear answers about just why those profits could only be had by funding Stuker’s 400 United Airlines flights around the planet.
Unless there is some reason why his company absolutely had to dispatch Stuker by plane during all these years, some reason why this epic business travel was warranted, then I’d be asking who authorized such ridiculous and irresponsible amounts of business travel?
These days, especially in the financial crisis, most companies have learnt to be more economical when setting their travel budgets. The cost of air travel, astronomical in Stuker’s case, is only one of the costly elements in business travel. Since his company funded his 10 million miles of flights they must also have forked out a fortune in hotel bills and food and drink bills, not to mention dry cleaning and a host of other expenses incurred when traavelling on business.
Happily for the environment, there are fewer and fewer times when it’s really essential to travel on business these days. Once you know a client, you can often switch from face-to-face meetings over to email and phone contact. Since most companies are under financial pressure these days, and people still lucky enough to have jobs are under pressure too, management and staff have less time to meet suppliers face-to-face. Internal business meetings can also be very effectively conducted by phone and teleconference. Once routine meetings are conducted in that way, as virtual meetings, they can be supplemented by occasional face-to-face meetings to maintain personal contact and colleagues’ relationships.
So it would be interesting to know what on earth is the justification for indulging what looks like Stuker’s personal ambition to rack up 10 million air miles on United. On the face of it, the only business justification for having staff fly that far and that often is if your company is an airline – and the staff are pilots and stewards.