The Best Airline And Hotel Loyalty Programs As Determined By Members

The Freddie Awards are the voice of the frequent traveler. Each year millions cast their ballots for the best in loyalty. In normal times the industry comes together at the awards ceremony the last Thursday in April to see the winners (and each other).

This year’s awards were supposed to be held last night in New Orleans. Randy Petersen, Ed Pizzarello and I run these awards and we made the call in early March not to hold an in-person event. However results were still released last night – at the originally-planned start time for the ceremony.

In total 3.61 million votes were cast this year. That’s down from the usual level of participation (over 4 million worldwide) but that’s also understandable this year. I’m surprised we got the level of participation that we did, but loyalty program members are passionate (just look at how much angst we had over elite status extensions!). Celebrating what’s good in loyalty programs is part of hanging onto a piece of what’s normal.

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards was named frequent flyer Program of the Year and Marriott Bonvoy took the same top honors among hotel programs in the Americas. The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards win marks the fifth straight year of the Program of the Year honor. Marriott’s loyalty program has now won the Program of the Year honor for eleven consecutive years.

Norwegian Reward and Accor Live Limitless took top honors in the Europe/Africa region and Virgin Australia Velocity and Accor Live Limitless took top honors in the Middle East/Asia Oceania region.

American AAdvantage won best airline elite program in the Americas for the 9th consecutive year. Hyatt took best hotel elite program in the region.

Also announced were the 210 Award for rising stars. Winners in this category included Air Canada Aeroplan and Accor Live Limitless in the Americas region.

Here’s the results from the Americas:

Here’s the results from the Middle East and Asia Pacific:

Here’s the results from Europe and Africa:

Randy Petersen founded the Freddies in 1988, named for Sir Freddie Laker, the marketing pioneer who made transatlantic travel affordable. I was honored to meet the late Sir Freddie at the award ceremony in 2002.

Some of what makes the Freddie Awards unique:

  • Sheer number of votes make the results difficult to influence. While there are extensive checks on the back end to catch programs (or anyone else) trying to stuff the ballot box, the sheer fact that over 3 million program members are voting makes influencing the vote difficult.

    Indeed, since so many programs share the opportunity to vote with their members even get out the vote efforts (on which the awards places limits) have only limited effect, when IHG or Hilton emails their members those members cast ballots on the airline side too. And American AAdvantage members rank order their preferred hotel programs.

  • Sponsorship doesn’t influence the outcome. The main sponsor in most years has been a bank that issues credit cards and their cards in recent times haven’t even won any awards. No airline or hotel program is approached to sponsor, the rest of companies involved are vendors and partners. They all do it either to give back to the industry, or to highlight themselves in front of current and potential customers and vendors (business development).

  • Program members directly determine the winner. This isn’t a game where voters ‘nominate’ programs and then the same company seeking sponsors picks the winner. I often wouldn’t make the same choices as the voter about who wins, but I have no influence over the outcome and neither does any other individual.

  • Small programs stand just as much of a chance as large ones since voters rank order their preferred programs first, second and third and the winner is the one with the highest average ranking not the most number of votes. (A program does need to be ranked by at least 2% of the voters in a category to be eligible to win.) So a small program that members feel delivers value can and often will best the largest programs with the most members voting.

A congratulations to the winners and a thank you to all of the voters who expressed their appreciation for programs they believe deliver the most value and continue to remain passionate about the industry.

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »



  1. Rapid Rewards. . .REALLY.

    It’s American Idol for Point Programs. Thanks for the laugh to start my Friday!

    Have a safe and restful weekend everyone!

  2. How on earth could Bonvoy win ANY awards?!? Either Marriott found a way to impact the vote (perhaps by bribing their buddy, TGP & his readers?) or the Freddie’s have lost all objective merit. Sadly, it may be the latter…

  3. I cannot believe the American AAdvantage won best program. I am a lifetime Gold member and stopped using this airline in any manner of point accumulation. US air execs have destroyed what was once the best airline in the country.

  4. How does Southwest win overall when AA wins for the Americas?

    Are best “frequent flier” program and best “elite” program judged with different criteria?

    It is highly suspect that – while all frequent flier programs have their good and bad days – the same programs are winning for 9, 10, 11+ consecutive years even during years where they have absolute garbage performance.

  5. Yeah…Bonv*y continuing to do well is a credibility disqualifier for me…quantity of mediocre limited service properties != loyalty program quality

  6. Surveys are only as good as their sample. I suspect that many who have given up on the destroyed programs b/c they know what they used to be are no longer voting in the Freddies

  7. I’m not surprised by the success of Accor. I’ve been spending more time with them during the past 18 months. The program has a lot going for it and is undervalued.

Comments are closed.