In arguably a close finish category, Bonvoy bested Rewards (Marriott’s old name for their loyalty program was Rewards but this time it’s Caesars), to take yet another of many honors for Program of the Year with a 3/100’s margin over Caesars Rewards (8.67 vs. 8.64 ) which itself was just ahead of MGM Rewards. Like others, we’ve enjoyed watching the rise of loyalty programs originally more closely associated with the gambling powerhouses of Las Vegas and the Freddie Awards tracks this rise better than any other loyalty awards honor. They (Caesars/MGM) are the #realdeal. We like/love competition and there are no easy wins here—congrats to Marriott because we all know that repeating this honor in this category will never be easy but they have made it look easy for an unprecedented 14th consecutive time. All three top places finished with ratings in the “8.X” range. Following up in fourth place was Wyndham Rewards which is not just known for its commercials featuring that bearded Rewards wizard but as a program in the mix of the best. And since you asked about Hilton, Hyatt, and IHG, you’ll be pleased to know that they finished in a row—fifth, sixth, and seventh in that order.
TRIVIA: Three of the top four finishers in this category call their loyalty program “Rewards.” And five of the top ten finishers in this category call their loyalty program … Rewards. Apparently, five programs didn’t get the email.
Program of the Year has its own cache as an award—best of the best. This year, Accor ALL won this award just as they have the previous six Freddie Awards making them an eight-time winner. They wrestled away the title from Starwood Preferred Guest in 2013 and haven’t looked back except in 2014 when IHG Rewards Club bested everyone. If you have but one Freddie Award, this is likely the one to earn but in counting their wins up this year it is but one of four for them to have taken home. In a category this important, all finishes matter, and Marriott Bonvoy, winner of the Program of the Year in the Americas finished in the number two spot. Accor ALL also finished well for Program of the Year in Middle Eat & Asia where they finished in the number two spot. Following right behind Marriott were Hilton and IHG with 210 Award winner GHA Discovery closing out the top five programs. In numbers six and seven, MeliáRewards and Radisson Rewards were close with their own cigars. As we look over all the finishers here, we’re most intrigued with IHG, a former winner who quite recently announced a complete refresh of their program. Similar to the refresh of Aeroplan in the airline program arena, a refresh can often move s needle. Let’s hope the race is on because members often win when the competition is new and close. One final observation: ALL’s rating of 9.16 is the highest rating of any of the three hotel Program of the Year wins. That deserves a virtual standing applause.
In somewhat of a coming-out party, Club ITC wins the biggest prize of the year with this Program of the Year honor that perfectly goes along with three other Freddie Awards they have won in 2022. Their winning rating of 9.05 matches exactly that of the same rating for their Best Elite award as well. Club ITC becomes the fourth program to win this award in the past five Freddie Awards with the only repeat being IHG which won in both 2018 and 2019. This category also features the same top three finishers as in four other categories with Club ITC, Accor ALL, and Marriott Bonvoy all displaying their consistencies. As mentioned, IHG won this award in 2019, 2018, and 2013 but this year could do no better than a #6 finish, 2.5 points off the rating of winner Club ITC. And what of other past winners? Hyatt who won in 2014 could do no better than a #10 finish with a rating of 6.30. We’d rather see a program consistently in the top-five year after year and perhaps not even winning the award than to see a program seesaw up and down through the top ten. But then … that’s just us thinking out loud.
Full Voting Results
Program of the Year – Hotels (Middle East & Asia/Oceania)
This category has had one of the longest and most consistent streaks for a winner ever with Virgin Australia Velocity winning the category eight of the past nine years (El AL won the award in 2017). So the win by Singapore KrisFlyer represents a huge shift in the value of loyalty programs in the Middle East & Asia/Oceania region. And Singapore did it with their usual aplomb garnering a 9.23 rating by their members. In the #2 spot with a rating of 8.90 is Vistara Club Vistara followed by Garuda Indonesia GarudaMiles with a member rating of 8.23. And where are past winners of this important category? Velocity has dropped to #7 two full points + behind the winning category rating and El Al did not even make the top ten. For Velocity, it is quite the fall as they are now ranked below that of rival Qantas who finished in the #6 spot. The bright star of the Australian airline loyalty marketplace—Air New Zealand landed a quite respectable #4.
TRIVIA: Vistara Airlines (#2) is actually a joint venture between Tata Sons (a privately held conglomerate in India) and Singapore Airlines. Their headquarters is in Gurgaon, also known as Gurugram, (a suburb of New Delhi which is an urban district within the city of Delhi) which is also the headquarters for Freddie Award winner Club ITC.
Full Voting Results
Program of the Year – Airlines (Middle East & Asia/Oceania)
During the pandemic period of loyalty programs, some stood still awaiting the return to travel while others used the change in travel sentiment to change themselves. Miles&Go just might be that trendsetter having moved up the ladder of loyalty in a big way. A 210 Award winner in the 2020 Freddie Awards, they swept aside both Norwegian and Aeroflot on their way to sweeping all major categories in the airline category in 2022. And they did it in a convincing fashion with a rating exceeding 9 (of 10) in every category they won. Following in the distance were the European powerhouses of Lufthansa Miles & More (second), Air France KLM Flying Blue in third, and British Airways Executive Club in fourth place. And when we say, convincing fashion, here’s why: they were 1.5 points ahead of Lufthansa in second place, whereas in the Americas and the Asia Pacific, the race for second place was much, much closer—approximately 3/10th of a point in both other regions. Norwegian Reward which captured this honor in 2020 fell back a full three points to land in ninth place. It wasn’t even close.
Just as Rapid Rewards has for the past five years, they best the best of others to take home their sixth consecutive POTY award, much to the chagrin of AAdvantage was the program that last took this award home other than Southwest (AAdvantage won POTY in years 2012-2015). What’s interesting is the strength that Avianca has in holding down the #3 spot. Often viewed by opportunists for their lucrative mileage bonus offers, there’s more to them than that as this ranking indicates. And regardless of what the M&A folks would have you believe, Spirit Airlines Free Spirit programs rank well ahead of that of potential acquirer Frontier Airlines (but let’s be fair, Frontier Early Returns did win POTY back in 2007) and JetBlue neither of which ranked in the top ten for their value to members. Of the proverbial #topthree legacy airlines, it is always somewhat puzzling how United Mileage Plus owns near the bottom of the top ten rankings this year—they last won POTY in the years 1995-1997.