Frequent fliers pick Southwest, Marriott as best loyalty programs

Millions of frequent fliers this year voted Southwest Airlines and Marriott Hotels as their favorite travel loyalty programs.

The honors, known as the Freddie Awards, were handed out last Thursday in a splashy Las Vegas event outside the city's new T-Mobile Arena.


Southwest's Rapid Rewards program, which relaunched in 2011, snagged the top spot for North American carriers. It's a program with no blackout dates and no charges for award tickets (other than taxes). Southwest's program also won for best customer service.

American Airlines' AAdvantage program won for the best elite loyalty program.

Marriott Hotels program, called Marriott Rewards, won as the best in North America and for best customer service. Hyatt's Gold Passport was voted as best elite program.

Marriott, by the way, is buying Starwood Hotels & Resorts, which will make it the largest hotel company in the world.

Best loyalty credit card went to Starwood Preferred Guest from American Express.

Among Europe and African carriers, Air France/KLM's Flying Blue program came in as best airline rewards program, and Accor Hotels' Le Club AccorHotels as best hotel rewards program.

The Freddies, which began in 1988, are voted on by frequent fliers from around the world.

The awards are named for Sir Freddie Laker, a no-frills airline pioneer who started what he called "sky train" service in 1966.

Laker Airways flew until 1982; Laker, who was knighted in Britain for his contribution to commercial aviation in 1978, died in 2006.