The Freddie Awards have represented the best in airline and hotel loyalty for 27 years. The nominees are eager to win every year because the Freddie Awards represent the voice of the people. One person, one vote. No panel or committee determines the winners. This year, over 3 million people voted for their favorites, and there were some interesting results:
- It was a surprise to me that the Southwest Airlines credit card won Best Loyalty Credit Card. And, the vote wasn’t even close. I was also surprised that my favorite credit card, the SPG AMEX, didn’t even make the top 5. In fact, only one credit card I carry, the Citi AAdvantage card, ended up in the top 5.
- In one of many very close votes, Hyatt Gold Passport won Best Elite Program in both the Americas and Middle East/Asia/Oceania. This doesn’t surprise me, but it did surprise me that they didn’t fare better in other categories. I wonder if the elimination of My Elite Rate weighed on their scores. While I can understand reasonable disagreement about who’s the best, I found it hard to believe that Hyatt didn’t finish in the top 4 for awards like Program of the Year.
- MGM M Life won their first Freddie Award, for Best Customer Service in the Hotels category.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards captured Best Redemption Ability in the Americas. This feels like a “halo” win to me. People like their program overall, so scored them high here. But, Southwest employs a revenue-based program, which means you can almost always redeem, just at some horribly high prices at times. And, Southwest altered their program this year to make some peak reservations even more expensive.
- Starwood Preferred Guest won a very close battle for Best Redemption Ability in the Americas. Again, I’m puzzled that Hyatt’s members didn’t score them higher on Redemption Ability.
- Le Club Accorhotels won Program of the Year for Hotels in the regions outside of the Americas. They took home 4 Freddies, showing how passionate their customers are about their brand. Marriott Rewards won POTY in the Americas in an incredibly close vote. I can only imagine this was because of the sheer number of ballots they appeared on combined with the percentage of people ranking them in the top 2. Marriott hasn’t done much of anything major over the last few years to improve the quality of their program. As I’ve mentioned in the past, Marriott members are irrationally passionate about their favorite hotel chain, and I have yet to figure out why, even after spending quite a few years as an elite member.
- American Airlines AAdvantage wins for Best Elite Program and Program of the Year in the Americas. There’s no doubt AAdvantage is my favorite program, and the vote for POTY was a lot closer than I would have expected. But, it wasn’t United or Delta who challenged them, both airlines I thought would have trouble competing this year given the drastic changes to their program. No, AAdvantage won this award by virtue of positive early returns from their merger (though the big pieces are yet to come) and largely on what they didn’t do (go revenue-based). Southwest Airlines finished 1/100th of a point behind them. And, while that has to be frustrating for Jonathan Clarkson, who runs the Rapid Rewards program, he should feel comfortable with the trophies they did take home and that Rapid Rewards is again well-respected by their customers.
It was a great event, to be sure. The Delta Flight Museum was a truly excellent venue that continued a tradition in recent years of staging the Freddie Awards at venues that represent the heart of the aviation industry.
The only sad note was the absence of the founder of the Freddie Awards, Randy Petersen. I hope that he’ll be back onstage next year to welcome everyone for the 28th annual Freddie Awards. In the meantime, if you want to see the full results, we’ve got them all for you right here.