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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.

  • Skywalker says:

    There was a bit of free-text in the awards nomination survey, if I remember correctly.

    What became of the comments in those boxes?

    • Rob says:

      None of the categories had a big enough contingent of ‘other’ entries for the same thing which led us to consider an Editor’s Choice.

  • Jim Utd says:

    Still astounded by BA winning Premium. Fully accepting of Virgin Upper food been of poor quality and quantity, but travelled Premium last week with them on a daytime flight and it was excellent. 4 courses, wonder-wall, nice seat on the A339, great staff. Dedicated check in. What’s not to like? Compare this to a WTP experience and there’s one winner. And it’s not BA.

  • BJ says:

    Hilton just boosted their top ranking, Small Luxury Hotels of the World joining Hilton Honors .

  • David L says:

    Great write up!!

    I feel Cathay T3 should be above CCR, but meh personal preferences. I do wonder how many voters could accurately compare options if they haven’t been to all of them. Hence maybe consider valuing votes more from ppl that have visited multiple lounges than ones that only visited one (I’m happy to come up with something simple here)!

  • Errol says:

    How the hell did Skywards get in the best airline loyalty scheme? I am a member but think Skywards is among the worst (I am only a member as I fly on EK sometimes and it lacks partners). AV, OZ, TK, UA, AC, DL all have better programs. EK is the pits.

    • Rob says:

      It’s very high profile in the UK so only fair to include it.

      • daveinitalia says:

        I can’t remember but was ITA in the shortlist? It must rate as one of the most popular schemes in the UK considering they status matched everyone and those who were matched in 2022 still have their status today (we got extended for another year)

    • Jonathan says:

      You’ve got the opportunity to earn with Air Canada Aeroplan if you don’t like SkyWards for whatever reason, it’s a good all-rounder loyalty scheme

      • Errol says:

        I actually credit my EK flights to Koream Air these days. But my flydubai flights can only goto Skywards as flydubai has no partners other than EK last time I checked.

  • Harry T says:

    I can fully endorse both the new W Edinburgh and using Avios on Qatar to travel to Australia in business class (we moved to Melbourne using this great redemption last month).

  • Wanderlust says:

    Not sure about the QR 787 suite for a business class innovation… we didn’t find it comfortable at all and found the seat lacked useful storage space. The only feature I liked was the phone charger/holder thing.

  • LazLon says:

    BA best premium economy?. That’s news to me. According to a survey by Which?, BA was way behind (58% customer score) compared to Virgin (79%).
    From Which?
    British Airways is the second-worst airline for long-haul flights in Economy (only Lufthansa got a lower rating in our survey) and it’s towards the bottom of our table for short-haul as well. It’s unsurprising then that so many people pay to upgrade to Premium Economy but few of them felt it was worth it. It got just two stars for value for money.

    Travellers thought that the cabin was pleasant and customer service was good (four stars) but the overall customer score was far lower than its transatlantic rival Virgin Atlantic. Seat comfort, boarding and entertainment all got just three stars.

    We checked 11 flights, and BA’s Premium Economy was between 50% and 100% more expensive than Economy (the average for all four airlines was 99%). The best upgrade is probably to fly with a different airline.

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