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Which loyalty programs and travel providers were winners at the 2019 TPG Awards?

Dec. 10, 2019
12 min read
TPG Awards 2018
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The 2019 TPG Awards just wrapped up, and like the inaugural ceremony, it was a night to remember. From the special honors for Beverley Bass and Katherine Johnson to memorable appearances from Selene Saavedra Roman and Amin from Rainbow Railroad, the evening was a terrific experience for everyone in attendance.

Of course, the ceremony was also a chance to highlight the best travel providers, credit cards and loyalty programs in 2019, many of which were chosen directly by you, our TPG readers. During the six weeks of voting, over 100,000 votes came in — and our editorial team spent even more hours taking flights and visiting lounges to determine our editors' choice winners.

So ... which travel providers and loyalty programs took home awards at this year's event? If you weren't following as the results were posted live on our Instagram account, here's a recap.

For a rundown of credit card award winners, check out this recap post.

Best U.S. Airline Loyalty Program

Winner: Delta SkyMiles

All of the programs from U.S. carriers have something going for them, but only one could be voted as the Best U.S. Airline Loyalty Program. This year, that honor went to Delta SkyMiles for the second straight year. While many award travel die-hards bemoan the carrier's lack of published award charts, TPG readers were likely swayed to favor Delta thanks to its frequent award sales — like round-trip domestic flights for 9,000 miles and round-trip business class flights to Europe for 98,000 miles. The carrier also gets high marks for its operational reliability and (relatively) consistent in-flight offerings.

You can also transfer Amex points directly to Delta at a 1:1 ratio, giving you easy ways to top up your SkyMiles account for a desired award ticket.

Related credit cards:

  • Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
  • Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
  • American Express® Gold Card

Additional reading:

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Best U.S. Airline Elite Status

Complimentary, first-class upgrades likely played a large role in Delta taking home the award for best elite status. (Photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy)

It was a similar story when it came to the award for Best U.S. Airline Elite Status: the winner was Delta Diamond Medallion. This top-tier elite status includes an array of perks, like top priority for upgrades, bonus miles and Choice Benefits selections that include upgrade certificates or Sky Club access. However, my experience as a multi-year Diamond Medallion (in years' past) found that the service may have been the best perk, as I frequently encountered phone agents and airport staff members who went above and beyond to address my concerns. It's likely these intangible benefits that played a large role in winning this award.

Additional reading:

Best International Airline Loyalty Program

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)
British Airways Executive Club was voted as the best international airline program, but it likely wasn't due to award flights on it's own aircraft. (Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

Winner: British Airways Executive Club

Of course, it's not just U.S. carriers that offer valuable loyalty programs. Many airlines outside the country provide some great earning and redemption options — and many are readily accessible to U.S. readers thanks to transferable point currencies like Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards. This was a brand-new category this year, and the first winner was the British Airways Executive Club and its distance-based award chart.

Now, it's a near certainty that this wasn't due to award tickets on the carrier's own flights, which remain subject to massive carrier surcharges. The program also underwent a mild devaluation to its partner award chart earlier this year. However, as a member of Oneworld (and through its partnership with additional non-alliance airlines), you can redeem British Airways Avios in a variety of valuable ways, including:

  • Short-haul flights within the U.S. starting at 7,500 Avios each way
  • Off-peak, short-haul flights on British Airways, Iberia or Aer Lingus starting at 4,000 Avios each way
  • American- or Alaska-operated flights from the West Coast to Hawaii for 26,000 Avios round-trip

As a transfer partner of Chase and Amex — including the potential for transfer bonuses — it's also simple to build up your Executive Club balance.

Related cards:

  • British Airways Visa Signature Card
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express

Additional reading:

Best Domestic Award Sweet Spot

A 757-200 taking off in Atlanta in 2014 (Photo by Alberto Riva/TPG)
Nonstop Delta flights in the U.S. can be a fantastic use of Virgin Atlantic miles. (Photo by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy)

Winner: Nonstop Delta flights using Virgin Atlantic miles

This was another new award for 2019, highlighting some of the best ways to redeem points or miles for flights within the U.S. The winner of the Best Domestic Award Sweet Spot: booking Delta flights through Virgin Atlantic. While most readers have probably heard of Delta's SkyMiles program, Virgin Atlantic's Flying Club program flies somewhat under the radar. However, there's some phenomenal values to be had, and TPG readers recognized just how valuable it is to redeem Virgin Atlantic miles for domestic Delta flights.

This is because Flying Club still uses a fixed-price award chart, while Delta publishes no award chart and thus can adjust prices as necessary. This isn't a great redemption during a SkyMiles award sale, but if you book a nonstop, Delta-operated flight within the U.S through Virgin Atlantic, you'll need just 12,500 miles. And with transfer options from Amex, Chase and Citi (again with the chance of additional transfer bonuses), most readers likely have a ton of Flying Club miles at their fingertips.

Note that availability is limited, but it's always worth checking Virgin Atlantic's website to see if you can save some serious miles on your next Delta flight.

Related credit cards:

  • American Express® Gold Card
  • Citi Premier® Card
  • Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

Additional reading:

Best International Award Sweet Spot

(Photo by Ethan Steinberg/The Points Guy)
If you can find availability, Delta One can be booked using Virgin Atlantic miles — often at fantastic award rates. (Photo by Ethan Steinberg/The Points Guy)

Winner: Delta premium-class flights using Virgin Atlantic miles

In addition to recognizing the best way to redeem points and miles domestically, we also wanted to look at the best international sweet spot. And despite a formidable list of competitors (like Cathay Pacific premium-class flights booked with Alaska miles), Virgin Atlantic took home the honors here as well, this time for premium-class Delta flights. The same concept holds true here; you can book Delta One flights with Virgin Atlantic miles at a fixed award price, often yielding some substantial savings. Flying Club does price its awards by segment, so connecting itineraries will require additional miles, but if you're based at a Delta hub, be sure to search through Virgin Atlantic before you default to using SkyMiles.

Related credit cards:

  • American Express® Gold Card
  • Citi Premier® Card
  • Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

Additional reading:

Best Hotel Loyalty Program

(Photo by Brian Kelly/The Points Guy)
Luxurious properties — like the St. Regis Venice — likely played a large role in earning Marriott Bonvoy it's second straight award for best hotel program. (Photo by Brian Kelly/The Points Guy)

Winner: Marriott Bonvoy

2019 has seen some significant shake-ups in the hotel loyalty space, with expanded partnerships, new brands and even a fresh name for an old program. But that new name didn't stop Marriott Bonvoy from retaining its title as the Best Hotel Loyalty Program. With over 7,000 properties and luxurious brands like St. Regis and Ritz-Carlton, TPG readers obviously weren't turned off by Category 8 pricing (which took effect in March) and new peak and off-peak pricing (which launched in September). Even though issues with the SPG integration persisted into 2019 for some members and the program continues to have a toothless no-blackout-dates policy, the votes showed that many readers are happy with the program.

Related credit cards:

  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card
  • Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card

Best Hotel Elite Status

Winner: Marriott Bonvoy Titanium

The same carrier took home the two major airline awards, and not surprisingly, the same thing happened with hotel programs, as Marriott Bonvoy Titanium won the honor for Best Hotel Elite Status. Despite its lofty qualification requirements (75 nights, or 60 actual nights if you hold a Marriott credit card), TPG readers clearly felt that the array of perks — including Choice Benefits, bonus points, complimentary breakfast at most brands and upgrades — were worthy of this award.

Additional reading:

Additional travel awards

(Photo by ablokhin/Getty Images)
Hertz was one of the other travel providers to take home an award this year. (Photo by ablokhin/Getty Images)

Beyond the world of loyalty programs, we also added four new travel awards to the slate of Readers' Choice categories this year. Here's how TPG readers voted for these honors:

  • Best Car Rental Company: Hertz
  • Best Home Rental Platform: Airbnb
  • Best Ride-Hailing Platform: Uber
  • Best Luggage Brand: Samsonite

Editors' Choice awards

In addition to the award winners selected by our readers, the TPG editorial team also set out to identify some of the best airline and airport experiences out there. After taking hundreds of flights and visiting dozens of airports to thoroughly test and vet the possible winners, here are the airlines that took home honors at the 2019 TPG Awards:

For additional details on any of these winners, be sure to check out full reviews or guides linked above.

Bottom line

We've officially closed the books on the 2019 TPG Awards, and the above travel providers and loyalty programs took home honors this year. Keep in mind that the first 11 award winners listed above were selected entirely by TPG readers' votes, with over 100,000 readers taking the opportunity to weigh in. Then our editors' choice awards leveraged our proprietary flight review formula in conjunction with the expertise of our editorial staff to determine which airlines deserved to be honored. If your favorite(s) didn't win, as the saying goes: "There's always next year!"

Want to share your thoughts on the winners? Visit the TPG Lounge on Facebook.

Featured image by Patrick T. Fallon
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.