Here Are The Best Airline And Hotel Loyalty Programs As Voted By You, Their Members

Determining who the “best” airline and hotel loyalty programs are is a finicky thing.  More organizations have attempted to enter the space to determine who’s best.  For over 30 years, the Freddie Awards have determined who the winners are not by a panel of experts.  Rather, the members of each program all get one vote.  My vote is worth just as much as yours.

Millions of people vote in the Freddie Awards each year.  There were approximately 7 million ballots cast in this year’s voting.  Some of the winners are ones I expected, others a big surprise.  Let’s take a deeper look.  The airlines that won in the Americas (North, Central and South) were:

  • Program of the Year — Southwest Airlines – Rapid Rewards (4th consecutive year)
  • Best Elite Program — American Airlines – AAdvantage (8th consecutive year)
  • Best Promotion — Avianca – LifeMiles
  • Best Customer Service — Southwest Airlines – Rapid Rewards
  • Best Redemption Ability — Southwest Airlines – Rapid Rewards
  • 210 AWARD — Air Canada – Aeroplan (Trending)

I picked Southwest Airlines as my choice for Program of the Year when I voted.  Their members really like the product they offer.  Southwest Airlines doesn’t try to pretend to be something it isn’t.  It’s a pretty basic concept and they work to deliver consistency to their customers.

I didn’t have American Airlines in my top 3 (Air Canada, Southwest and Alaska).  This is a category that American has consistently done well with, even in years where they don’t win in other categories.  I think this speaks to the fact that the Freddie Awards aren’t just a contest to see which program can send the most e-mails to their members (more on that in a bit).

Southwest picks up awards for Best Customer Service and Best Redemption Ability.  Southwest doesn’t have better redemption ability, per se, than their competitors.  Every seat is available for an award, because they’re tied directly to the price of a cash ticket.

Let’s take a look at hotels in the Americas:

  • Program of the Year — Marriott Hotels – Marriott Bonvoy (for the 12th time)
  • Best Elite Program — Hyatt Hotels – World of Hyatt
  • Best Promotion — Marriott Hotels – Marriott Bonvoy
  • Best Customer Service — Caesars Entertainment – Caesars Rewards
  • Best Redemption Ability — Marriott Hotels – Marriott Bonvoy
  • 210 AWARD — Caesars Entertainment – Caesars Rewards (Trending)

Marriott?  Wow, I didn’t see that one coming.  I’ve already heard from a number of folks who think Marriott won because they sent out the most e-mails.  I’ve been involved in the Freddie Awards for roughly 10 years now.  While I don’t have exact numbers, Marriott pretty much always sends out e-mails to their membership.  Same for Southwest and American, and a lot of other programs.  I’d argue Southwest outperformed their peers more this year than last, but won less Freddies.  American only won a single Freddie Award, even though they have a massive database of members to connect with.

Hyatt has done well with Best Elite Program over the years.  That’s how I voted, Hyatt has been my favorite for some time as well. They offer the best suite of benefits to elite members and do a better job delivering on those benefits than their competition.  It’s interesting to see Caesars pop their head into the winner’s circle.  M Life (the MGM program) won a Freddie last year, so the major casino players are showing their commitment to customer loyalty.

The Final Two Pennies

Interestingly enough, when I looked at the scores for Hotel Program of the Year in the Americas, the gap between 1st and 2nd (Marriott and Caesars Rewards) was fairy close, a lot closer than the gap between 2nd and 3rd.  IHG, another very large program, rounded out the top 4 way behind the other 3.  That shows appreciation for Marriott but with other programs like Caesars Rewards coming on strong.  Did Marriott expect to win this year?  I don’t think they did, with all the issues they’ve had.

Marriott does have a lot of very loyal members.  I guess a good number of them have not been affected (or swayed) by recent problems.  On the airline side of things, Southwest’s customers seem happiest with the airline.  They even voted their credit card the Best Loyalty Credit Card in the Americas, ahead of such valuable programs as Chase Ultimate Rewards.  In that voting, it wasn’t even really that close.  That seems to be a true testimony of how much Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards members love their favorite airline.

What do you think of the results?

Find the full results for all awards below:

Americas

Airline:

  • Program of the Year — Southwest Airlines – Rapid Rewards (4th consecutive year)
  • Best Elite Program — American Airlines – AAdvantage (8th consecutive year)
  • Best Promotion — Avianca – LifeMiles
  • Best Customer Service — Southwest Airlines – Rapid Rewards
  • Best Redemption Ability — Southwest Airlines – Rapid Rewards
  • 210 AWARD — Air Canada – Aeroplan (Trending)

Hotel:

  • Program of the Year — Marriott Hotels – Marriott Bonvoy (for the 12th time)
  • Best Elite Program — Hyatt Hotels – World of Hyatt
  • Best Promotion — Marriott Hotels – Marriott Bonvoy
  • Best Customer Service — Caesars Entertainment – Caesars Rewards
  • Best Redemption Ability — Marriott Hotels – Marriott Bonvoy
  • 210 AWARD — Caesars Entertainment – Caesars Rewards (Trending)

 

  • Best Loyalty Credit Card — Southwest Airlines – Rapid Rewards from Chase Bank

Europe & Africa

Airline:

  • Program of the Year — Norwegian Air – Norwegian Reward
  • Best Elite Program — Aeroflot – Aeroflot Bonus
  • Best Promotion — AIR FRANCE/KLM – Flying Blue
  • Best Customer Service — Aeroflot – Aeroflot Bonus
  • Best Redemption Ability — AIR FRANCE/KLM – Flying Blue
  • 210 AWARD — TAP Air Portugal – Miles&Go (Trending)

Hotel:

  • Program of the Year — Accor Hotels – Le Club AccorHotels
  • Best Elite Program — Marriott Hotels – Marriott Bonvoy
  • Best Promotion — IHG – IHG Rewards Club
  • Best Customer Service — Accor Hotels – Le Club AccorHotels
  • Best Redemption Ability — IHG – IHG Rewards Club
  • 210 AWARD — NH Hotel Group – NH Rewards (Trending)

 

  • Best Affinity Credit Card — Bank Norwegian – Norwegian Card

 

Asia/Middle East & Oceania

Airline:

  • Program of the Year — Virgin Australia – Velocity
  • Best Elite Program — Virgin Australia – Velocity
  • Best Promotion — Virgin Australia – Velocity
  • Best Customer Service — Virgin Australia – Velocity
  • Best Redemption Ability — Virgin Australia – Velocity
  • 210 AWARD — ANA – ANA Mileage Club (Trending)

Hotel:

  • Program of the Year — IHG – IHG Rewards Club
  • Best Elite Program — Hyatt Hotels – World of Hyatt
  • Best Promotion — IHG – IHG Rewards Club
  • Best Customer Service — Accor Hotels – Le Club AccorHotels
  • Best Redemption Ability — IHG – IHG Rewards Club
  • 210 AWARD — ITC Hotels – Club ITC (Trending)

 

  • Best Affinity Credit Card — American Express Membership Rewards

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9 Comments

  1. Bonvoy! It is ok if you would like to use your points for a hotel stay but transfer them to an airline such as Qantas: 8 weeks!! Obviously, my free seat was gone….

    1. Andrew, you totally don’t come off as a dick. And, I’m not involved in any way, shape or form in determining the methodology/criteria. That’s Randy and Gary. At the end of the day, though, it’s the members that vote the winners.

  2. My issue with the ‘winners’, especially the larger(est) companies is that these awards can give permission for poor service in the future. Massive customer databases, this quickly turns into a popularity contest. It’s like those car dealerships that advertise ‘We’re Number 1 for the nth year in a row”. Who cares that you sell more cars than the next guy? Soon seen splashed on websites: “Freddie Award Winner Best______ for the nth Year!”. In the meantime, I can’t even check in for my flight die to a computer glitch on the airlines’ side, a hotel chain where I’m ‘Lifetime Platinum’ can’t seem to give me my bonus points from last August even though they keep saying they will, a car rental company ‘warning’ me I’m about to lose some of my credits because I haven’t redeemed any in a period of time. I didn’t even bother to vote this year, and none of them obviously needed it.

  3. Marriott … They changed the rules for Gold members and now, you are downgraded! No more access to lounges, no more 4PM late check-out…It is a shame to read the Bonvoy is The program of the year. They made a terrible mistake and now, because of this, I try to avoid Marriott and previous Starwood properties every time I have the choice to do it.

  4. I worked PT or Marriott for 15 years. I try to use them when travelling. Their”guarantee” is useless,”customer service” will find a way to deny. Happened to me and others several times. Personally, I use hotels.com to research, then call the hotel direct and they always match.

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