The Nobel Peace Prize for Frequent Flyer Programs Goes To..

The Freddie Awards contained a new category this year — Up and Coming Program of the Year. It was awarded to the program (hotel and airline) in each region that, while not winning program of the year balloting, received the highest ranking among those programs being ranked by between 2% (so meeting a minimum threshold) and 10% of the voters in a category.

It recognizes programs that are well-regarded amongst the subset of voters who are familiar with them, and which may be programs to watch.

MGM Mlife was Up and Coming Program of the Year for hotels in the Americas, for instance.

We had an interesting result for airlines in the Middle East and Asia Pacific region.

  • We’ve long had a rule that we do not ’round up’ to 2% to qualify to be ranked for an award.
  • We’ve never had an explicit rule about ’rounding down’. We’ve never needed one.

So when looking at the results Saudi’s Alfursan program was ranked by just over 10% of the voters in the category. We decided that we couldn’t impose a rule about rounding down or not rounding down after the fact, so they shouldn’t be denied the award — but neither should the program which would receive it if Saudia wasn’t eligible.

Two programs received the Up and Coming Program of the Year award for an airline in the Middle East and Asia Pacific: Saudia and… El Al.

Really? The award was to be jointly won by those two airlines of all the airlines in the region?

The results are where they are, the voters’ opinions lead where they lead. And while these are frequent flyer executives and not politicians the presentation of this could have been… interesting. (For what it’s worth, El Al was represented at the ceremony by a woman, long time marketing executive Gracie Ninger.)

I explained the award on stage. I brought up Saudia as the first winner. Dr. Abdulaziz Khayat, General Manager of the Alfursan program, along with Saudia’s Vice President of Public Relations, accepted the award.

Then they stepped off the stage to have their photo taken with the award. And I announced the other winner as El Al. Each received their time on stage.

I’m pleased to report no international incidents.

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. I fly Saudia JFK-RUH round-trip all the time on my US passport, and I also have lots of Ben-Gurion stamps in my passport. It’s never been an issue for me, and further it’s never even been brought up. Not when getting my 5-year Saudi visas at the Saudi Embassy in DC, and not when boarding Saudia or going through immigration in Riyadh in either direction (or recently on a domestic flight to Dammam). This belief that the Saudis care if you’ve been to Israel is either nasty propaganda, or very, very old news and more than 12 years out of date (based on my personal experience). My experience is that it’s not their concern. Since 1994 (following the Oslo Peace Accords), the GCC (including the KSA) has not participated in the Arab League’s boycott of companies that did/do business in Israel. This might be the date before which the comments about problems going to KSA may have been true – but I don’t know first hand. Interestingly, on entering Israel at Ben Gurion, I’ve been asked more than once what I was doing in KSA, and my answer is always the same: “the same thing I’m doing in Israel, helping plan transportation infrastructure.”

  2. I didn’t understand the math issue that came up. Why did rounding cause you to have two winners?

    I am really confused how EL. AL won something. It actually speaks poorly of the awards. Their program was made even worse last year.

  3. LY has massively devalued their program and added hard expiration dates on all points.

    Up and coming…how exactly?

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