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Joe wrote a great post the other day, highlighting some of the absurdities that can arise when travel awards are handed out based on a poll of magazine readers and internet trolls. Only a tiny minority of voters have sufficient perspective to vote properly, especially in categories that sometimes don’t even make sense.
So here’s a serious look at how I would do things differently, and who I think the winners should be.
Best Frequent Flyer Programme
It is fairly obvious to all of us at InsideFlyer UK that British Airways Executive Club is NOT the best frequent flyer programme. However, I would split this category into two since no frequent flyer programme does a good enough job of catering to both of the following sub-groups:
- Those that care about elite status to make their travel experience slightly less miserable
- Those that want to earn enough miles from their business travel to pay for their holiday travel (preferably without hundreds of pounds as co-payment)
Best Frequent Flyer Programme – Elite Status
British Airways Executive Club does a reasonable job here and would be the clear winner in a poll of British business travellers. Many BAEC members have a reasonable shot at achieving Silver status, which comes with lounge access for all Oneworld flights. (there’s nothing like a complimentary G&T or two to take the edge off of what awaits on-board…) And InsideFlyer’s resident Gold Guest List member Nick swears by the ability to force open award space in any cabin. (a.k.a. “jokers”)
But my winner would be… Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles. Why?
- Elite status lasts two years instead of one.
- It is substantially easier to retain status once it has been earned and a sensible status match policy allows frequent flyers the chance to join without starting from the bottom
- Elite Plus members (the top level of status) receive two free confirmed upgrades each year from ANY Economy fare to Business Class, even when there is no award space in Business.
- All of the usual perks of Star Alliance Gold status across the entire alliance
Best Frequent Flyer Programme – Earning and Burning Miles
No surprise here… Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan works for everybody, even Europeans. The only question is whether I would also add a prize for the “Best Reward Using Miles”, which would almost certainly be one of:
- 70,000 miles for a one-way in First Class from Johannesburg to New York with a stopover in Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific.
- 70,000 miles for a one-way in First Class from Delhi to New York with a stopover in Tokyo on JAL.
- 85,000 miles for a return in Business Class between Europe and Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific.
Best Hotel Loyalty Scheme
Again, I fail to understand how you can lump two entirely different raison-d’etres of hotel loyalty programmes into one category, when you have those voters who:
- Are more interested in receiving perks from elite status
- Are more interested in converting business travel into free accommodation during holidays
Therefore, I would split this category into two.
Best Hotel Loyalty Scheme – Elite Status
Now we could have a fair contest! The larger footprint of Hilton Honors would be offset by the fact that elite benefits can be lacking at hotels in the UK.
My winner? Starwood Preferred Guest… but only because Hyatt has made such a mess of its new World of Hyatt. The top level of Platinum at SPG can be reached with 25 stays, an achievable target for many. And Platinum members are treated rather well…
Best Hotel Loyalty Scheme – Free Nights
Let’s get creative here… IHG’s Accelerate isn’t going to last forever – all of those bonus points will surely result in a devaluation – so my winner would be…
Hotels.com Rewards. One free night for every ten paid nights. No messing about with points, award availability, inconvenient locations, etc. Stay wherever you like, redeem wherever you like. Earn lots of cashback if you like.
Best Airport in the World / Europe
The last time I checked, Amsterdam was located on this planet. Yet despite being the top airport in Europe, it didn’t show up in the “world” list, even though London Heathrow placed third in the world and second for Europe. Would it really be so difficult to tabulate the voting accordingly?
(or even better, stop the East German judges from voting for Heathrow simply because it is the least-bad of the major London airports)
And consider me confused as to the enduring popularity of Singapore’s Changi airport. Does a “business traveller” really care about the koi pond and the cinema, or shouldn’t they be voting for airports that can get them from their office desk to the boarding gate in thirty minutes or less, such as at London City Airport?
Best Airport Lounge
As “Tom” mentioned in the comments section of Joe’s post, it simply makes no sense for people to vote for the Business Class lounge at an airport/airline combination that also has a First Class lounge. So split them in two…
Best First Class Lounge
Concorde Room… not so much… Although I have yet to manage it, I am intrigued by the Lufthansa First Class TERMINAL at Frankfurt airport. And since First Class passengers have their own terminal, they are taken to the aircraft in a Porsche.
But any of the Middle Eastern First Class lounges (at their home base) are viable options here, along with the Pier in Hong Kong.
Best Business Class Lounge
Now we can properly honour the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, the only reason I go to Heathrow six hours before my flight, instead of the minimum 60-90 minutes.
Some of the inconsistencies of the Business Traveller Awards voting process would go away if the categories were made clearer. What do you think?