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Airline winners at the 2021 TPG Awards, according to readers

Nov. 01, 2021
5 min read
Featured Image - Readers Choice - Airlines Week D
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The votes have been tallied, and the results are in. The 2021 TPG Awards is starting with Airlines Week, and today we're thrilled to announce the winners of the aviation-related readers' choice categories. This starts right here, with the three awards for the top airlines — according to TPG readers who cast their votes (voting ran from Sept. 13 through Oct. 15).

And just a note that at least some of the winners may surprise you.

Read on to hear which carriers are taking home hardware this year.

Best US Airline Loyalty Program

This award recognizes the airline in the U.S. with the best loyalty program, and prior years have seen it handed out to both Delta SkyMiles (2018 and 2019) along with Southwest Airlines (2020). But today, we have a new honoree.

Winner: American AAdvantage

TPG readers selected American's AAdvantage loyalty program as the best in 2021. While travel continues to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic, it's been a busy year for the Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier. It received a notable partner boost from Alaska Airlines on March 31, when Alaska officially joined the Oneworld alliance and launched reciprocal elite perks with American. AA also moved forward with its non-alliance partnership with JetBlue — which has its own system of reciprocity for frequent travelers (though that pact now faces some headwind).

Read more: Where should I credit my flights? Maximizing American and JetBlue’s new loyalty partnership

And despite continued speculation that American might eliminate award charts — a development that would match legacy competitors Delta and United — that hasn't happened. As a result, there's still a ton of value to get out of the program, whether you're booking Web Special awards or leveraging partners like Cathay Pacific and Etihad.

As a result, TPG readers placed it at the top of the heap in 2021.

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Best US Airline Elite Status

In prior years, the award for best elite status by a U.S. airline has typically matched the winner of the overall award for "Best US Airline Loyalty Program" — and 2021 is no exception.

Winner: American Executive Platinum

The top tier in American's AAdvantage program was voted as the best of the year by TPG readers. For those who can qualify for Executive Platinum (which was a bit easier in 2021), there are a ton of perks to enjoy — including complimentary upgrades on all routes along with your choice of elite rewards, including the carrier's well-known Systemwide Upgrade certificates (SWUs), which were just extended yet again.

Now, it's worth noting that the voting for both of these awards wrapped up prior to last week's bombshell announcement about AAdvantage and its shift to Loyalty Points as the new metric for elite-status qualification. So while there's no way to know whether American would've won in spite of the news, it is the winner for 2021 — but the carrier may have its work cut out for it to retain these awards next year.

Related: 11 things you might’ve missed in American’s massive loyalty program update

Best International Airline Loyalty Program

The final airline-related award is for the best international airline loyalty program, an honor that we paused last year due to the ongoing travel restrictions around the world. In 2019, when we first gave this award, British Airways was voted as the best — and today, it's keeping its title.

Winner: British Airways Executive Club

British Airways may be known for the significant fuel surcharges it imposes on award tickets, but there are many ways to maximize the carrier's Executive Club program. The distance-based award chart can allow travelers to book short-haul flights at very affordable rates, not only on its own flights but on Oneworld carriers as well. In fact, booking American-operated flights can sometimes be cheaper through BA than by using American's own AAdvantage program.

Avios are also very easy to earn, as British Airways partners with American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Capital One — all of which allow 1:1 transfers to Executive Club (sometimes with an added bonus).

In short, if you're looking to book a Oneworld flight sometime soon, be sure to look into British Airways.

Read more: The ultimate guide to British Airways Avios

Bottom line

American Airlines took home the two marquee airline loyalty awards, as it was voted as the best U.S. airline loyalty program and elite status in 2021 by TPG readers. Meanwhile, its Oneworld partner British Airways took home honors as the best international airline loyalty program, an award it also won in 2019.

Do you agree with these picks, or did the readers miss the mark? Share your thoughts in our TPG Lounge group on Facebook — and stay tuned for more announcements of award winners throughout the week.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.