Frequent Travelers Speak: Which Programs Really are the Best?

The Freddie Awards website did an excellent job chronicling the evening’s blow-by-blow with photos.

My own summary is over at Conde Nast Travel. Here’s the USA Today take.

You can read about it at Rapid Travel Chai and at Mommy Points. Deals We Like covered the results. So did the Points Guy. And Live and Let’s Fly

just Another Points Traveler is giving away her swag bag from the evening.

The big winners on the night were:

  • American Airlines in the Americas — Program of the Year, Best Earning Promotion (Double Elite Qualifying Miles), Best Customer Service, and Best Elite Program. I think they do deserve to be the big winner here, their award inventory domestically is head and shoulders above the competition and their elite program is a solid choice, I definitely feel valued as an Executive Platinum. The only real competition at the elite level is United, which won the past two years, I suspect a combination of MileagePlus program changes and that the voting took place during the reservations system cutover to combine United and Continental probably hurt their chances.

  • Marriott and Starwood Preferred Guest on the hotel side – Marriott in the Americas, Starwood especially in Europe. Marriott wasn’t as dominant this year as they were the previous two but still showed strong, their program doesn’t work so well for me but their members are certainly loyal and their properties ubiquitous. The word most used to describe Marriott is ‘consistent’ even when it’s not at a consistently high level. Starwood likely benefited from timing as well, having just announced their suite of new benefits right before voting started, implementation began during the voting period. Next year will be their true test — their members could be even happier as they begin to understand their new benefits, or the halo could fade, I suspect the former.

  • Turkish and Air Baltic in Europe – sometimes the smaller carriers develop a truly loyal following, and I was impressed to see the results here, I’m not nearly as familiar with BalticMiles as Miles & Smiles, I am considering asking Turkish for a status match now that I’m losing Star Alliance Gold with bmi (Turkish status lasts two years and is an easy requalification).

  • Hyatt Gold Passport and Accor – they each only won a single award, Hyatt won Best Elite Program in Asia and I feel they deserve it in the Americas too. In the past they’ve deserved best promotion for earning, and should certainly be in the running on the redemption side but their program is smaller and doesn’t work for everyone, I do find it to be the most rewarding overall. Accor renamed their program from A}Club to Leclub Accor Hotels and for such a large chain their push into the loyalty space is relatively new. It’s often possible to get top tier elite status through instant signup, and I do love that…

  • Jet Airways and Taj Hotels – Without fierce competition from Kingfisher this year, Jet was able to split many of the awards in Asia Pacific with Etihad, much of the India market is likely supportive of Taj and they picked up 3 awards.

Congrulations to all the winners — and congratulations to the million and a half frequent travelers who participated in the voting and had their voice heard. Their picks aren’t always my own choices, but that just shows that different programs work well for different people, I’ll keep trying to convince everyone to vote my way but I don’t suspect that’ll work…

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Do you have any suggestions on a comfortable sports jock I can wear for long haul travel that offers both support, comfort and most import is breathable in the front?

  2. Gary, in my experience American’s domestic award inventory is no longer “head and shoulders above the competition.” I’m having better luck with United and even Delta.

  3. @Richard, for AA international metal, indeed, but AA domestic premium space remains readily available as does Cathay and BA first. Seeing that LH and LX really don’t release space anymore and SQ has cut back even more, it’s either United First or nothing when going to Europe. With the A380 coming to Thai, I’m also noticing that they are zeroing out of some of their first class cabins, which would be a huge step back.

  4. I know this post if focused on the program winners themselves, but there must have been chuckles in the room when the Delta SkyMiles credit card won in its category. Maybe people really depend on those MQMs from the Platinum and Reserve and just make snarky comments about the elite inflation publicly.

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