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Bankruptcy Bounce? American Airlines' AAdvantage Voted Best Airline Frequent Flyer Program

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American, Starwood, and Marriott are among the big winners at this year's Freddie Awards.

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MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL Troubled American Airlines, which went to bankruptcy court this week to argue for the termination of its costly labor contracts, received some good news as its AAdvantage program won the frequent flyer Program of the Year award at last night's Freddie Awards. The winner is determined yearly by tallying the votes of frequent flyers.

The company, rumored to be merging with US Airways (LCC), also won awards for the Americas region in the categories of Best Customer Service, Best Elite Program, and Best Promotion for Earning.

In the most prestigious Program of the Year award, AAdvantage, which celebrated its 30th birthday last year, beat out finalists Air Canada's Aeroplan, Delta's (DAL) SkyMiles, and Southwest's (LUV) Rapid Rewards.

In the hotels division, Starwood (HOT) was the big winner, taking home 13 out of the 18 available awards, including Program of the Year for Europe/Africa. Marriott (MAR), however, nabbed the equivalent award for the Americas. Another major hotel operator, Hyatt (H), only managed a win for Best Elite Program for Middle East/Asia/Oceania.

Now in its 24th year, the annual Freddie Awards seek to reward excellence in the travel loyalty industry, with awards given out in six categories across three global regions. Frequent fliers and hotel patrons cast votes to decide the winners in each category, and over one million votes were cast online this year.

Besides airlines and hotels, the Freddies also give out awards for the best loyalty credit cards in each region. This year, Delta's SkyMiles card from American Express (AXP) was the winner in the Americas category.

The newly merged United and Continental (UAL) did not make the shortlist in any of the categories.

The Freddies were handed out at an awards ceremony at the Renaissance Newark Airport Hotel in Elizabeth, NJ. More than 300 airline, hotel, and credit card representatives attended the ceremony, along with several members of the voting public.

"We are delighted to once again allow frequent flyers throughout the world the opportunity to select the frequent travel programs that they believe have achieved excellence," Randy Petersen, founder of Milepoint.com and one of the hosts of the event, said. "This is not an elitist view of these programs but rather the 'best' are determined by the votes of those who spend a great deal of their life on the road."

The Freddie Awards are named after the late Sir Freddie Laker, who attracted fame (and a knighthood in the United Kingdom) for pioneering low-cost air travel across the Atlantic in the 1970s.


2012 Freddies Winners

Program of the Year
Americas Airline: American Airlines AAdvantage
Americas Hotel: Marriott Rewards
Middle East/Asia/Oceania Airline: Jet Airways JetPrivilege
Middle East/Asia/Oceania Hotel: Taj InnerCircle
Europe/Africa Airline: Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles
Europe/Africa Hotel: Starwood Preferred Guest

Best Promotion for Earning
Americas Airline: American Airlines AAdvantage
Americas Hotel: Starwood Preferred Guest
Middle East/Asia/Oceania Airline: Jet Airways JetPrivilege
Middle East/Asia/Oceania Hotel: Accor A|Club
Europe/Africa Airline: Lufthansa Miles & More
Europe/Africa Hotel: Starwood Preferred Guest

Best Promotion for Redemption
Americas Airline: Delta Air Lines SkyMiles
Americas Hotel: Marriott Rewards
Middle East/Asia/Oceania Airline: El Al Matmid Club
Middle East/Asia/Oceania Hotel: Starwood Preferred Guest
Europe/Africa Airline: Lufthansa Miles & More
Europe/Africa Hotel: Starwood Preferred Guest

Best Redemption Ability
Americas Airline: TAM Fidelidade
Americas Hotel: Marriott Rewards
Middle East/Asia/Oceania Airline: Etihad Airways Etihad Guest
Middle East/Asia/Oceania Hotel: Taj InnerCircle
Europe/Africa Airline: airBaltic BalticMiles
Europe/Africa Hotel: Starwood Preferred Guest

Best Customer Service
Americas Airline: American Airlines AAdvantage
Americas Hotel: Marriott Rewards
Middle East/Asia/Oceania Airline: Jet Airways JetPrivilege
Middle East/Asia/Oceania Hotel: Taj InnerCircle
Europe/Africa Airline: Lufthansa Miles & More
Europe/Africa Hotel: Starwood Preferred Guest

Best Elite Program
Americas Airline: American Airlines AAdvantage
Americas Hotel: Marriott Rewards
Middle East/Asia/Oceania Airline: Etihad Airways Etihad Guest
Middle East/Asia/Oceania Hotel: Hyatt Gold Passport
Europe/Africa Airline: airBaltic BalticMiles
Europe/Africa Hotel: Starwood Preferred Guest

Best Loyalty Credit Card
Americas: Delta SkyMiles American Express
Middle East/Asia/Oceania: Etihad Guest Above Credit Card
Europe/Africa: Turkish Airlines Shop&Miles Garanti Credit Card

(See also: With Consolidation of Airlines, Is Elite Status a Thing of the Past?)

Twitter: @sterlingwong
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