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Who won at the Head for Points Travel & Loyalty Awards 2023?

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Last Tuesday night, 80 of the great and good from the UK airline, hotel, airport lounge and reward credit card sectors gathered to find out who YOU had voted as winner’s of the Head for Points Travel & Loyalty Awards 2023.

We ran an article on Monday explaining what went on, so you should read that first if you haven’t already. Thanks again to Rakuten Advertising who generously sponsored the awards and the dinner.

Let’s jump straight in to the winners – if you disagree, you have only your fellow readers to blame! As a reminder, the original shortlists were drawn up by the HfP team with voting available via the website over Christmas and New Year.

The awards were presented by Sky News presenter Jonathan Samuels, who is in most of the images below.

Jack Calway American Express

Best independent UK airport lounge

  • American Express Centurion Lounge, Heathrow Terminal 3 (winner)
  • Aspire Lounge (Gate 16), Edinburgh
  • Lomond Lounge, Glasgow
  • No1 Lounge, Birmingham
  • Northern Lights Lounge, Aberdeen

Collected by Jack Calway from American Express. We said:

The first Centurion Lounge to open in Europe – accessible at Heathrow Terminal 3 to anyone with an American Express Platinum or Centurion card – is a good example of what smart design can do with a windowless space.  A variety of seating ‘zones’ means that there is something to suit every sort of trip and traveller.”

Elizabeth Cunningham IAG Loyalty

Best airline or rail loyalty scheme

  • British Airways Executive Club (winner)
  • Club Eurostar
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Flying Blue
  • Miles & More
  • Qatar Airways Privilege Club
  • Virgin Flying Club

Collected by Elizabeth Cunningham from IAG Loyalty. We said:

It’s unsurprising that readers of a UK-focused frequent flyer site would choose British Airways Executive Club as their preferred programme.  However, whilst it’s easy to be annoyed by high surcharges and wobbly IT, you have to admire industry-leading innovations such as guaranteed Avios seats on every flight, the new ‘all Avios’ flights and the 2-4-1 voucher offered on the BA Amex credit card.”

Jillian Jackson Hilton

Best hotel loyalty scheme

  • Accor Live Limitless
  • Hilton Honors (winner)
  • Rewards
  • IHG One Rewards (Editor’s Choice)
  • Marriott Bonvoy
  • Radisson Rewards
  • World of Hyatt

Collected by Jillian Jackson from Hilton. We said:

Hilton could rest on its laurels, given its huge footprint, but the loyalty scheme is still a leader. It’s the only major programme to offer free breakfast or a food cash credit to mid-tier members (some schemes don’t even give this to their top tier) and giving each hotel a points price cap means that you’re never going to see ludicrous reward pricing on super-peak nights.”

Peter Tippen IHG

Rhys and I gave an extra ‘Editor’s Choice’ award in this category, collected by Peter Tippen from IHG One Rewards. We said:

IHG One Rewards, launched in 2022, is a huge step forward. The old model of weak benefits but easily earned points has been ripped up.  New Milestone Rewards allow you to earn a suite upgrade with just 20 nights per year and an annual lounge pass for just 40 nights.  Top tier Diamond members now get free breakfast too. The scheme is now a real competitor.”

Best UK travel rewards credit card

  • American Express Preferred Rewards Gold
  • Barclaycard Avios Mastercard
  • Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard
  • British Airways American Express Premium Plus (winner)
  • Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa
  • HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard
  • Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card
  • The Platinum Card by American Express
  • Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard
  • Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

Collected by Jack Calway of American Express, pictured earlier. We said:

“The British Airways Premium Plus credit card is a juggernaut, with over 1% of UK GDP flowing through it according to a recent IAG presentation.  BA and Amex could have stood still but are still rolling out new ideas, such as allowing the 2-4-1 voucher to be used by a solo traveller for a 50% Avios discount.  Opening extra reward availability for 2-4-1 voucher holders in Business Class was also a genuine innovation.”

Gary Kershaw Eric Odone Qatar Airways

Best business class seat & service

  • ANA
  • British Airways
  • Emirates
  • Etihad Airways
  • Japan Airlines
  • Qatar Airways (winner)
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Turkish Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • United Airlines

Collected by Gary Kershaw and Eric Odone from Qatar Airways. We said:

“Qatar Airways won this category when we first held these awards in 2019 and it appears to be uncatchable at the moment. Qsuite’s privacy door, spaciousness and quality finish, plus the impressive Qatar Airways food and wine are all best in class amongst the major global carriers.” 

Esme Fillingham British Airways

Best new or refurbished UK airport lounge

  • 1903 Lounge, Manchester Terminal 2
  • Aspire Lounge, Belfast City
  • Blush Lounge by Plaza Premium, Heathrow Terminal 4
  • British Airways First Dining Room, Heathrow Terminal 3
  • British Airways Galleries Club, Heathrow Terminal 5B (winner)
  • Escape Lounge, Manchester Terminal 2
  • Flight Lounge, Gatwick North
  • No1 Lounge, Luton
  • Plaza Premium, Edinburgh
  • Qatar Airways Frequent Flyer Lounge, Heathrow Terminal 4

Collected by Esme Fillingham from British Aiways. We said:

“Tucked away in the T5B satellite terminal and accessible by all Business, First, Silver and Gold passengers, this relatively unknown lounge is looking good following an overhaul which goes well beyond the ‘light refresh’ initially promised by British Airways.”

Best special sign-up offer on a UK travel rewards credit card

  • 70,000 Avios for £3,000 of spend with the British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card (winner)
  • 75,000 Membership Rewards points with £10,000 of spend, plus a 25,000 points renewal bonus, on The Platinum Card from American Express
  • 50,000 Avios with £3,000 of spend on the Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard
  • 50,000 Capital On Tap points with £30,000 of spend on the Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa Card
  • 80,000 Membership Rewards points with £12,000 of spend, plus a 40,000 points renewal bonus, on the American Express Business Platinum Card
  • 30,000 Virgin Points with £3,000 of spend on the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard
  • 100,000 Avios for taking out a Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard and opening a Barclays Premier bank account

Collected by Elizabeth Cunningham from IAG Loyalty, pictured earlier. We said:

“Letting people earn a sign-up bonus of 70,000 Avios – worth, in the worse case, £465 of Nectar points – was a crazy offer, especially as the card could be cancelled for a pro-rata membership fee refund at any point.  I suspect most people will have stuck around though, treating the Avios as covering 2-3 years of annual fee.”

Chris Currie Marriott International

Best new UK chain hotel

  • DoubleTree by Hilton Brighton Metropole
  • Fairmont Windsor Park
  • Hampton by Hilton London City
  • Hyatt Regency London Blackfriars
  • Lost Property St Pauls London
  • Radisson Red Liverpool
  • Radisson York
  • The Municipal Hotel Liverpool
  • Virgin Hotels Edinburgh
  • W Edinburgh (winner)

Collected by Chris Currie from Marriott International. We said:

“This hotel is not going to win any awards for its – ahem – interesting silhouette or for the speed of its construction, but it is finally open as Scotland’s first – and only the UK’s 2nd – W hotel.  Attracting a branch of the hip SushiSamba restaurant shows what it wants to achieve and the rooftop bar will come into its own during the summer. We look forward to trying it soon.”

Amy Benton British Airways

Best UK airport lounge (airline)

  • British Airways Concorde Room, Heathrow Terminal 5 (winner)
  • Cathay Pacific Business & First Class Lounge, Heathrow Terminal 3
  • Etihad Lounge, Heathrow Terminal 4
  • Qantas London Lounge, Heathrow Terminal 3
  • Qatar Airways Premium Lounge, Heathrow Terminal 4
  • Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, Heathrow Terminal 3

Collected by Amy Benton from British Airways. We said:

“The Concorde Room – exclusively for ticketed First Class passengers departing from Heathrow Terminal 5 – shows that British Airways can do good quality table service lounge food and premium drinks.”

Best new business class seat

  • Air France new A350 / 777 business class seat
  • Etihad A350 Business Studio
  • Finnair AirLounge (Editor’s Choice)
  • Iberia A350 NEXT seat
  • JetBlue Mint Suite / Studio
  • Qatar Airways 787-9 new business class suite (winner)
  • Virgin Atlantic A330-900neo Upper Class Suite / Retreat Suite

Collected by Gary Kershaw and Eric Odone from Qatar Airways, pictured earlier. We said:

Despite being an off-the-shelf product, Qatar Airways’ newest business class seat is a match for the Qsuite found on the A350 and Boeing 777. Whilst it has been constrained by the smaller footprint of the Boeing 787, the suite feels no less spacious and is complemented by the latest technological features, including wireless Qi charging and Bluetooth connectivity.”

Eerika Enne Anssi Partanen Finnair

Rhys and I gave an extra ‘Editor’s Choice’ award in this category, collected by Eerika Enne and Anssi Partanen from Finnair. We said:

“Finnair took a risk when it chose the AirLounge, and it has paid off. The first ‘no-recline’ business class seat on the market saves on maintenance costs and overall weight, making it a cheaper and more environmentally friendly choice, but it maintains the spaciousness of a proper, fully-flat business class bed. Whilst there are no doors, the curved outer shell creates a cocoon of privacy. Finnair also deserves credit for pushing on with its refurbishment during the pandemic, meaning that virtually the entire fleet is now converted.”

Best premium economy seat and service

  • Air Transat
  • British Airways (winner)
  • Emirates
  • Norse Atlantic
  • Qantas
  • United Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic

Collected by Esme Fillingham from British Airways, pictured earlier. We said:

“British Airways has been investing in its World Traveller Plus experience over the past five years, and this win shows it has paid off. Upgraded meals, blankets, pillows and amenity kits mean the cabin is now a real step up from economy, whilst (finally!) the launch of dedicated check-in and baggage-drop desks seems to have given it the edge this time.”

Best hotel loyalty promotion

  • Accor Live Limitless October 2023 – 6,000 bonus points for 3 x 2 night stays
  • Hilton Honors Autumn 2023 – double or triple base points, based on city, on every stay (winner)
  • IHG One Rewards Summer 2023 – 10,000 bonus points for every four cash nights
  • Miles & More / – “30 miles per €1”
  • Marriott Bonvoy Spring 2023 – double elite nights plus 1,000 bonus points per stay
  • Preferred Hotels Black Friday – 3 for 2 and 30,000 bonus points for a three night stay
  • World of Hyatt Summer 2023 – double base points on stays outside the Americas

Collected by Jillian Jackson from Hilton, pictured earlier. We said:

“Hilton has a track record of running back-to-back promotions, so you can always be sure of earning more points from a stay than you would expect.  This offer was a typical Hilton example – easy to understand, easy to register and applicable to stays you’d already booked.”

Best travel loyalty innovation

  • American Express – £300 annual dining credit on The Platinum Card
  • American Express – addition of 50% discount for solo travellers to the British Airways 2-4-1 voucher (winner)
  • British Airways Executive Club – Avios-only flights
  • British Airways Executive Club – long haul Reward Flight Saver
  • Priority Pass – launch of lounge pre-booking
  • Qatar Airways Privilege Club – adoption of Avios
  • Virgin Atlantic – joining SkyTeam (Editor’s Choice)
  • Virgin Red  – launch of £10 flat-fee points transfers to other members

Collected by Elizabeth Cunningham from IAG Loyalty, pictured earlier. We said:

The 2-4-1 companion voucher given out annually to British Airways American Express cardholders is easily the UK’s most valuable credit card perk but was useless to solo travellers.  It took 20 years, but this simple change – allowing a solo traveller to use a 2-4-1 for a half-price Avios ticket instead – instantly opened up the card to a new market segment.”

Rami El Dahshan Virgin Atlantic

Rhys and I gave an extra ‘Editor’s Choice’ award in this category, collected by Rami El Dahshan from Virgin Atlantic. We said:

Passengers – and Head for Points – have been clamouring for Virgin Atlantic to join a major airline alliance for years, so it’s only right that we recognise it now that it has. You can now earn and redeem Virgin Points on all nineteen SkyTeam airlines, whilst Virgin Flying Club members can enjoy their elite benefits even when they’re not flying Virgin Atlantic.”

Raija Seager Eric Odone Qatar Airways

Redemption of the Year

  • Accor Live Limitless – BST Hyde Park tickets and VIP packages
  • Hilton Honors – rooftop party at Hilton Garden Inn Silverstone on British Grand Prix practice day
  • Hilton Honors – Secret Socials private gigs in London featuring Becky Hill, Stormzy & Tom Grennan
  • IHG One Rewards – EPCR Challenge Cup and Heineken Champions Cup rugby tickets
  • Marriott Bonvoy – Elton John suite packages at the O2 via Marriott Moments
  • Qatar Airways Privilege Club – UK to Australia in business class for 180,000 Avios (winner)
  • Virgin Atlantic – 30% off all flight redemptions in all cabins on all routes
  • Virgin Red – Virgin Voyages 7-night Mediterranean cruise for 80,000 points for two (Editor’s Choice)
  • Virgin Red – Virgin x Crosley turntable for 1 point

Collected by Raija Seager and Eric Odone from Qatar Airways. We said:

“In the (unlikely) situation that you can find a British Airways Business Class reward seat to Australia, it will cost 340,000 Avios return on a peak date.  In 2022 Qatar Airways adopted Avios and decided that it would charge just 180,000 Avios for a UK – Doha – Australia / New Zealand Business Class ticket.  As well as a points and charges saving, you get to fly in the superior Qatar Airways cabin and choose from multiple destinations, not just Sydney.  Availability was also excellent, although the secret is now out.”

Jodie Morjaria Caitlin Marsh Virgin Red

Rhys and I gave an extra ‘Editor’s Choice’ award in this category, collected by Jodie Morjaria and Caitlin Marsh from Virgin Red. We said:

A lot of HfP readers jumped on the Virgin Voyages Mediterranean cruise redemptions offered by Virgin Red last year. The feedback in our forum has been fantastic – from young and old and from those who wanted to party to those who simply wanted a quiet break after a tricky couple of years.  80,000 Virgin Points for an all-inclusive (except alcohol) week-long cruise selling for almost £3,000 was outstanding value.”

Congratulations to all of the winners and nominees, and thank you to everyone who voted and everyone who came along to the event last week.

Comments (126)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Henry says:

    Did you also get the chance to ask whether a new enhanced (70k!) bonus is coming for BA Premium Plus? 🙂

  • David S says:

    Having seen the earlier comment on meal quality, I recollect seeing an article somewhere else today about KLM trying to do something to reduce food waste. “In response, BA says it will introduce meals that its customers would actually like to eat, thereby reducing waste”. Oops sorry – didn’t realise I was still asleep and dreaming. 🙂

  • Mike says:

    If you are trying to use statistics for a senior position you’d need to be looking at the demographics at the temporal entry point into that career. So a High Court judge would have 20 to 30 years experience, use a cut off of immigrants have to arrived by 10 years old, you’d be looking at the appropriate demographic split being that around 2 or 3% being a ‘minority’. On London’s demographics, assuming these are senior positions, then there’s no reason it would be reflective of a crude demographic split due to experience, qualifications etc. (HMRC’s assumptions on skills for immigrants have shown to wrong).

    • His Holyness says:

      Funny you mention justice. What shocks me is the Met/City police. London is 1/2 BAME and yet they could be beat cops from Newcastle.

  • Novice says:

    Good job Rob and team. You should have a Razzie award style category or categories as well. Maybe not hold an actual ceremony or anything but do voting from us readers. I think you have a lot of sway in the industry now so you dishing out razzies would probably get all these airlines and hotels chains speed up improvements. 😂

    • Tetly1967 says:

      Well Radisson Rewards would get my vote for a HfP Razzie!

      • Simon says:

        Similar thought about the Razzies – how about: “Worst Ever Customer Communications On Date Changes to An Airline Status Programme”? Could be some hot competition for this one with a leading contender already and it’s only February.
        Or “Cash Flight Earning Fewest Avios” and so on…
        That said, as a long time follower it’s really great to see the HfP team at the centre of a high end awards night as their stature continues to grow in the industry. Congratulations team!!

  • John says:

    Great job y’all. As a regular American reader it was a great read (OMG your credit card bonuses are small). Loved the editors award category, presumably this is when your reader’s get it wrong?! We need that for the US election in November 🤨

    • Rob says:

      It’s not that the readers get it ‘wrong’ but an airport lounge in Dundee could dish out Krug and caviar to every guest and still wouldn’t win ‘best lounge’ because virtually no-one goes there. ‘Editor’s Choice’ fills in those gaps.

      • daveinitalia says:

        The only Editors Choice awards dished out were for Virgin Atlantic’s ‘innovation’ of finally joining an alliance and IHG which probably was also voted highly by the readers and just pipped by Hilton. No hidden gems

        • Rob says:

          No, there were four. Virgin Atlantic, IHG, Virgin Voyages, Finnair.

          We reward what we find. Northern Lights in Aberdeen won one in 2019 for eg. I suspect PremiAir in Manchester may get one next year if it reopens on time and is still as good as it was. Rhys was very keen on Southampton’s Spitfire Lounge the other week too.

          I do agree that it would have been better to reward some nicher players (albeit Virgin Voyages and Finnair are pretty niche in a HfP context) but there was nothing that jumped out. By definition you also can’t get ‘niche’ players for ‘Best Chain Hotel’, and no start up airline is going to be winning Best Business Class in a hurry.

          • daveinitalia says:

            We might have Global Airlines next time round 😁

            Something for next year might be best hotel Executive Lounge. Most Hilton lounges have declined since covid (doing the drinks service an hour earlier between 17:00 and 19:00 seems a common trick now which is bad if you’re staying there for work) but there’s a few gems out there such as Aberdeen TECA that runs the drinks for 3 hours, offers table service and has some nice local beers.

            Another idea might be to remove the ‘other’ field from the voting but allow nominations a few months before, then the most popular nominations (plus HfP team favourites) can make the list. If something unexpected makes the list you (or Rhys) could then review it if it sounds like it would make a good Editor’s Choice reward.

  • Voldemort says:

    Trying to keep a straight face at some of these winners.

  • dan_a_man says:

    Going forward maybe consider adding a reward for best top tier status (with consideration to achievability for UK based readers – could also be an editors choice one tbh). I feel like most people following HfP will have top tier status at least at one program. I am always keen to understand whether there is better value for my nights during a year.

    • Rob says:

      If we do it again next year there will be changes, because I can’t see what would stop Qatar winning Best Seat, BA Amex winning Best Card and BAEC winning Best Scheme. We need to mix it up or it will get dull.

      Someone has offered to sponsor next year though, so it may happen. We lost about £2,500 doing it but the PR trade off was worthwhile and I think we’ve got a Summer Party sponsor out of it too.

      • Chas says:

        Possible date for the summer party Rob? I know you were waiting for the Euro drawer to take place….

        • Rob says:

          Rhys is talking to the Renaissance this week. There are only three possible options from our side (assuming it has to be a Tue/Wed/Thu in mid to late June) and to be honest only one date is ideal – Tue 18th. Doesn’t mean the hotel is available though ….

          Good news is that two people have already expressed an interest in sponsoring. We can’t do it without sponsorship – we don’t give you free food and drink because we’re nice people, we do it because the hotel has a huge minimum spend we need to hit to get the hall and terrace.

          • Chas says:

            Thanks, much appreciated – I’ve blocked it in my diary just in case. Great news re the two potential sponsors coming out of your awards evening. Fingers crossed they come through generously!

  • Andrew P says:

    I think the best redemption is what I’m doing now! Male to heathrow to Las Vegas to heathrow to male with a 2 fo1 Amex voucher, so half the usual Avios and better availablility on the male trip which can be tough to find. Also with a few months in Heathrow, so basically 2 separate trips with a 2 for 1 and all thanks to the information on the great HfP site!

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