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For the second straight year, FlyerTalkers cast ballots to determine the community's favorite travel affinity programs. Voting was open from January 15 to February 15, 2013. We are honored to present their results here.

Perhaps the most rewarded group in the history of these programs, FlyerTalk is a community of nearly half a million business and leisure travelers dedicated to finding and sharing elite-level knowledge of air, hotel and car rental programs. These are not casual travelers; they are industry influencers. Their favorite programs can truly be called the best in the world -- because they have tried them all.

143 programs worldwide vied for Best Program, signifying the finest combination of value, ease-of-redemption and customer service. FlyerTalk is presenting nine of these awards across three geographical regions.

Following a weeks-long nominations process in the FlyerTalk forums in December 2012, a single benefit was chosen to represent each program. In 2013, FlyerTalk is presenting awards to the nine programs with the Outstanding Benefit of the past year.

For the first time, FlyerTalk will also spotlight a single rewards program with the FlyerTalk Special Recognition Award.

How the Awards are chosen:

Voters are asked to submit a six-part online ballot, ranking their top four programs (1st place, 2nd place, 3rd place, 4th place) in each award category. Ballots are tabulated using a single-winner voting method (a modified Borda count) with a proprietary weighting system, and audited over a period of weeks. This ensures that small programs, meeting a modest minimum qualifying percentage of votes cast, have the same chance of winning as the largest players in their industry; high program participation does not necessarily equate to a higher Quality Score. A perfect Quality Score -- receiving nothing but 1st-place votes -- is 10.



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Best Rewards Program


American Airlines AAdvantage (7.37)
Improving on their top Quality Score from 2012 (7.03), AAdvantage again wins with the second highest vote total in the region. United Mileage Plus gets the most total votes and is a strong 2nd place out of 20, followed by Delta SkyMiles and Air Canada Aeroplan, which falls from the 2-spot last year.

Starwood Preferred Guest (6.86)
Hilton HHonors (6.71) has more total votes, but SPG takes the region with a higher Quality Score. Marriott Rewards is 3rd, just as last year.

Hertz Gold Plus Rewards (7.91)
Remember 2012, when Hertz took home every rental car award in every region? Buckle up, folks.


British Airways Executive Club (8.28)
BA Executive Club sports the highest Quality Score of any airline in 2013, besting Lufthansa (7.41). With bmi Diamond Club gone this year, the relatively small Aegean Miles & Bonus slides in for a respectable 3rd out of 28 programs in this highly competitive region.

Starwood Preferred Guest (7.22)
SPG displaces HHonors in Europe/Africa . just barely! In fact, this turned out to be the narrowest margin of victory in all of 2013. Just THREE VOTES separate their Quality Scores, with HHonors notching a 7.2135 to SPG's 7.2183! Whoa.

Hertz Gold Plus Rewards (7.77)
Hertz over Avis. Sixt is thirxd.


Cathay Pacific Asia Miles (7.38)
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles beats Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer (6.77), and has the highest vote total to boot. Disappointingly, El Al Matmid Club again has an even higher Quality Score than the winner, at 7.67, but, again, fails to qualify due to a low voter turnout, indicating a very small but extremely loyal following.

Starwood Preferred Guest (7.15)
Completing the trifecta of Best Hotel Program awards, it.s SPG over HHonors. That.s bigtime.

Hertz Gold Plus Rewards (8.14)
Hertz over Avis, ever the bridesmaid.

Outstanding Benefit


American Airlines AAdvantage : EXP Systemwide Upgrades. (7.96)
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards : No Change/Redemption/Cancellation Fees. scores a very nice 7.02, but the advantage goes to AAdvantage for the win. UAL Mileage Plus. fee-free awards for Platinum members rounds out the top 3.

Club Carlson : Earn 50,000 Points per Stay. (7.25)
Club Carlson.s 50k promotion earns them the win.and the only new program to break into the winner.s circle in 2013! They edged juggernauts SPG, HHonors, and Marriot Rewards. Kudos, and keep it up!

Hertz Gold Plus Rewards : Gold Service. (8.16)
With pre-assigned vehicles, pre-printed contracts and more, Hertz Gold Plus .Gold Service. wins the hearts and votes of FlyerTalkers in the Americas. National Emerald Club's .Choice of Car. benefit is once again very popular.


British Airways Executive Club : Upgrade using Avios. (8.20)
Another year, another win for BAEC.s beloved Avios Upgrades. Up-and-comer Aegean Miles & Bonus comes in second (7.66) for having the .Lowest Star Gold Threshold in the Alliance,. at 20K miles.

Hilton HHonors : Executive Lounge Access. (7.44)
HHonors holds onto this award for the second straight year, this time for their cushy Exec Lounge rather than last year.s Complimentary Room Upgrades. Second place goes to Club Carlson.s .2for1 and 4for2 Nights. promo, in a dogfight with SPG and Priority Club Rewards.

Hertz Gold Plus Rewards : Earn points toward free rentals, or exchange for other programs' miles/points. (8.21)
Business as usual for Hertz, with their versatile rewards eclipsing Avis Preferred.s .Service within 3 Minutes. guarantee.


Cathay Pacific Asia Miles : Seat Guarantees. (7.60)
Marco Polo members give the thumbs-up to Cathay Pacific's Seat Guarantees again in 2013. Also fondly thought of were Asiana Airlines Asiana Club.s .Long-Term Star Gold Eligibility,. and a pair of lounge access offerings for economy fliers from All Nippon Airways Mileage Club and Emirates Skywards.

Hilton HHonors : Executive Lounge Access. (7.11)
It's a re-run: as they did in the Europe/Africa region, HHonors replaces its 2012 room upgrades award with its own Executive Lounge Access benefit in 2013. SPG's "Platinum Upgrades" are the runner-up.

Hertz Gold Plus Rewards : 5-Star/President's Circle automatic upgrades, bonus points & special offers. (9.21)
Unlike last year, when Hertz was the only program nominated for this region, there was competition from Avis' Rapid Returns service. Same result, though: Hertz Gold Plus, for the sweep, two years running. Amazing!

The FlyerTalk Special Recognition Award

bmi Diamond Club

Following a series of informal meetings by the bmi moderators on Oct. 13th 2005 (when social media was not yet a buzzword), a voice from the cyber wilderness made itself known to ordinary FlyerTalk posters' this was bmi's Diamond Club representative, FlyerTalk's first fully-sanctioned official lurker from the airline world.

bmi British Midland was a small regional airline in the UK that had the heart of a lion, providing outward connections to Europe, and breaking the government-supported monopolistic stranglehold on the UK market by a larger competitor. After bmi joined the Star Alliance, the innovations driven by the airline's loyalty team lead to the Diamond Club frequent flyer program being viewed by many on FlyerTalk as the true sweet spot in collecting miles: 36k for Star Gold of the best value propositions out there given earning and burning rates; a super-attractive cash-and-miles chart; 600% earning on F fares and the list of cherished values goes on. In the years that followed, Diamond Club and the team behind her not only challenged their competitors to greater levels of service to the traveling public, but they also raised the bar on valuing the customer and listening to them. Diamond Club, alongside a few others at the vanguard of what was to become known as social media, created the mold for what we now know as FlyerTalk lurkers.

With bmi's acquisition by British Airways in 2012, this wonderful chapter came to an end. But the lasting effects of their hard work.the dedication and the value propositions created for travelers.still resonate loudly within the airline loyalty world and among FlyerTalkers.

It is for this reason that Diamond Club, and the team behind her, is posthumously awarded the very first FlyerTalk Special Recognition Award for services to the FlyerTalk community.

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