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The World's Top Frequent-Flier Awards Go To...

Ben Mutzabaugh, USA Today
Friday, 27 Apr 2012 | 10:48 AM ET

American Airlines' AAdvantage frequent-flier program took home more awards than any other carrier at the 2012 Freddie Awards Thursday evening.

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American Airlines
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American Airlines

ncluded in American's four-Freddie award tally was the coveted "Program of the Year" title for airlines in the Americas. That ended a two-year run by the Air Canada-affiliated Aeroplan program, which did not win a single Freddie after winning five total awards in 2011 and three in 2010.

American's generous promotions throughout the past year were key to landing it in the top spot and the award gives the airline a nod from the group most critical of airlines — the passenger.

The three other finalists for "Program of the Year" in the Americas were Air Canada's Aeroplan, Delta's SkyMiles and Southwest's Rapid Rewards.

The annual "Freddie" awards recognize the world's top airline and hotel loyalty programs. The awards are determined by votes by frequent fliers and hotel patrons, recognizing six "best of" categories for both airlines and hotels in each of three global regions. The Freddies also honor the best loyalty credit cards in each of the regions.

Among hotels, the Starwood brand won more Freddies than any other hotel group, including the "Program of the Year" in the Europe/Africa region. Marriott took home the "Program of the Year" Freddie for hotels in the Americas. Combined, Starwood and Marriott won 13 of the 18 "best of" categories. India's Taj Hotels won three while Hyatt and Accor each won one.

Following American in the 2012 Freddie tally were Germany's Lufthansa and India's Jet Airways, which each won three. Lufthansa won the "Program of the Year" honor for the Europe/Africa region while Jet did the same for the Middle East/Asia/Oceana region.

The only other frequent-flier programs to win multiple Freddies were those affiliated with the United Arab Emirates' Etihad and Latvia's airBaltic. Each won two Freddies.

While Etihad is a well-known brand in frequent-flier circles, airBaltic and its BalticMiles names are not as well known outside its region.

"This is the first-ever award BalticMiles has won," BalticMiles CEO Gabi Kool said while accepting one of the program's two awards. "We're from a small country, but we have very big dreams."

Among the three credit cards honored, the Delta-affiliated SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express was named the best loyalty card for the Americas. The card affiliated with Turkish Airlines' program won the Europe/Africa region while the Etihad-branded card was named tops in the Middle East/Asia/Oceana region.

The awards are based on the votes of frequent fliers and hotel guests from across the globe via the Web. As the awards have gained traction in recent years, airlines and hotel chains have increasingly embraced the awards. Most major North American airline and hotel brands even sent out e-mails to their members urging them to vote.

More than 1 million votes were tabulated, according to Tommy Danielsen — one of the event's organizers. He says quality controls were in place to try to keep individuals from submitting multiple votes.

The guest emcee for the event was actor Robert Wuhl, known for roles in a number of high-profile movies as well as the HBO series Arli$$.

Also in the audience: Freddie Laker, Jr. — the son of the late airline icon Freddie Laker, for whom the Freddies are named.

The elder Laker, who died in 2006, is known in aviation circles for founding Laker Airways in the 1960s. The airline went out of business in the early 1980s, but it was one of the first no-frills airlines that is widely credited for paving the way for modern low-cost carriers like Southwest, Ryanair and easyJet.

"I'm very grateful for anything that keeps my father's legacy alive," Laker told the Freddies crowd of about 400. "My father was my best friend and I miss him very much."

Here is the complete list of winners:

2012 FREDDIES: AIRLINES
Program of the year
Americas: American Airlines (AAdvantage)
Europe/Africa: Turkish Airlines (Miles&Smiles)
MiddleEast/Asia/Oceania: Jet Airways (JetPrivilege)

Best redemption ability
Americas: TAM (Fidelidade)
Europe/Africa: airBaltic (BalticMiles)
MiddleEast/Asia/Oceania: Etihad Airways (Etihad Guest)

Best promotion (redemption)
Americas: Delta Air Lines (SkyMiles: Travel in Style for Half the Miles – SkyMiles International Upgrade Program)
Europe/Africa: Lufthansa (Miles & More: Upgrade Discount)
MiddleEast/Asia/Oceania: El Al (Matmid Club: Upgrade Assured)

Best promotion (earning)
Americas: American Airlines (AAdvantage: Double elite-qualifying miles)
Europe/Africa: Lufthansa (Miles & More: Miles & More Every Flight Counts Promotion)
MiddleEast/Asia/Oceania: Jet Airways (JetPrivilege: A Trip Well Advised!)

Best customer service

Americas: American Airlines (AAdvantage)
Europe/Africa: Lufthansa (Miles & More)
MiddleEast/Asia/Oceania: Jet Airways (JetPrivilege)

Best Elite Program
Americas: American Airlines (AAdvantage)
Europe/Africa: airBaltic (BalticMiles)
MiddleEast/Asia/Oceania: Etihad Airways (Etihad Guest)

2012 FREDDIES: HOTELS
Program of the year
Americas: Marriott Hotels (Marriott Rewards)
Europe/Africa: Starwood Hotels (Starwood Preferred Guest)
MiddleEast/Asia/Oceania: Taj Hotels (Inner Circle)

Best redemption promotion
Americas: Marriott Hotels (Marriott Rewards: Point Savers)
Europe/Africa: Starwood Hotels (Starwood Preferred Guest: SPG Moments)
MiddleEast/Asia/Oceania: (Starwood Preferred Guest: SPG Moments)

Best earning promotion

Americas: Starwood Hotels (Starwood Preferred Guest: SPG Getaway Free)
Europe/Africa: (Starwood Preferred Guest: SPG Getaway Free)
MiddleEast/Asia/Oceania: Accor Hotels (A|Club: Bring Back Smiles to Thailand)

Best redemption ability
Americas: Marriott Hotels (Marriott Rewards)
Europe/Africa: Starwood Hotels (Starwood Preferred Guest)
MiddleEast/Asia/Oceania: Taj Hotels (Inner Circle)

Best customer service
Americas: Marriott Hotels (Marriott Rewards)
Europe/Africa: Starwood Hotels (Starwood Preferred Guest)
MiddleEast/Asia/Oceania: Taj Hotels (Inner Circle)

Best Elite Program
Americas: Marriott Hotels (Marriott Rewards)
Europe/Africa: Starwood Hotels (Starwood Preferred Guest)
MiddleEast/Asia/Oceania: Hyatt Hotels (Hyatt Gold Passport)

2012 FREDDIES: CREDIT CARDS
Best Loyalty Credit Cards
Americas: Delta Air Lines (SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express)
Europe/Africa: Turkish Airlines (Shop&Miles Credit Card from Garanti)
MiddleEast/Asia/Oceania: Etihad Airways (Etihad Guest Above Credit Card from ADCB)

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