Breaking Down The Best In Travel Loyalty – My Thoughts On The Freddie Awards

For the past decade I’ve helped organize the Freddie Awards, frequently referred to as the “People’s Choice Awards” for airlines and hotels.  It’s been three years since we were able to gather in person to hand out the awards and I was on hand two weeks ago in New Orleans.  Shortly after the award ceremony ended and I spent a bit of time catching up with old friends I was sprinting off an airline flight trying to get to a track meet in time to see my daughter run.  From there, life ensued and I’m just now getting the chance to sit down and think about this year’s winners. Before I left New Orleans I did discuss the winners on my podcast if you want to have a listen.

2022 Freddie Awards Winners

I wanted to take a few minutes to break down the winners in the Americas.  You can see the full discussion of my picks here, and I’ve posted my ballot below:

Best Elite Program (Hotel): Marriott Bonvoy

This is one of those areas where Hyatt has traditionally performed strongly.  While I saw Marriott reach out to their members asking them to vote, I didn’t see Hyatt do so.  I wonder if that had enough of an effect to keep Hyatt off the top of the podium this year.  What did surprise me is that Caesars Rewards and MGM Rewards took second and third place here.  Those results say a lot about how those members feel about the revamped loyalty programs the casino chains have rolled out.  At the end of the day, I strongly disagree Marriott is the best hotel elite program.

Best Elite Program (Airline): American Airlines AAdvantage

The results here surprised me.  I wonder if voters recognized the changes American Airlines AAdvantage just made as opposed to how they performed in 2021.  Air Canada Aeroplan doesn’t surprise me as a strong second (it was one of the closest votes this year).  Their new program is very dynamic.  This is normally a category that Southwest Airlines does well in, despite having a more unconventional sort of elite program.  They did finish fourth this year.  My top three were Southwest, Aeroplan and Delta.

Best Loyalty Credit Card: Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

This winner was a bit of a surprise to me.  I thought Ultimate Rewards would get an easy win, since so many cards award this valuable flexible currency.  They weren’t even in the top four finishers.  I think this win says a lot about the passion of the Southwest Rapid Rewards members.  The ability to jump start to the best benefit in airline loyalty, the Companion pass, probably has a lot to do with this.

Best Customer Service (Hotel): Caesars Rewards

Another strong showing by the casino programs, with Caesars edging out Marriott Bonvoy for the win.  Customer service is definitely not something I consider a strength of the Marriott program.  My top three (Hyatt, Hilton and Wyndham) didn’t even break the top 4.

Best Customer Service (Airline): Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards

Now we’re talking!  The first winner I got correct.  Southwest Rapid Rewards customer service has always been very helpful for me.  I’m not surprised to see them take this award.  I’m also not surprised to see Aeroplan take second place with some very customer-friendly policies in the new program.

Best Redemption Ability (Hotel): Marriott Bonvoy

Once again I’m in disagreement on the winner.  Marriott has plenty of properties, but they also have plenty of properties that play games with award availability.  Heck, there’s even a crazy story about a property reaching out to my buddy/podcast co-host to ask when he’d like to come stay so they could open up award inventory.

Best Redemption Ability (Airline): Air Canada Aeroplan

My second correct pick!  Aeroplan really does have some really good award redemption ability.  This was another incredibly close vote, with Aeroplan edging out Avianca Lifemiles.

Best Promotion (Hotel): Caesars Rewards

Another strong finish for Caesars. Their members really have a passion for the program. My top choice, Hilton’s promo, was a distant fourth.

Best Promotion (Airline): Avianca Lifemiles

I can’t say this is a huge surprise to me. Avianca sold Lifemiles really cheaply, which was a fantastic opportunity for many folks.  I’m not a big advocate of purchasing miles, so I didn’t score this promotion very highly.

Program of the Year (Hotel): Marriott Bonvoy

I didn’t have Marriott in my top 3 (Hyatt, Hilton, Wyndham).  I understand the appeal of Marriott to a degree.  They have a large footprint and points transfers to airlines are a good value.  But, they’ve continued to erode the core value of their points.  And, the lack of enforcement of elite benefits makes this a tough one to agree with.

Program of the Year (Airline): Southwest Rapid Rewards

When I saw Southwest won program of the year again, I started nodding my head.  Boy, was I surprised when I realized I didn’t even have them in my top 3!  Southwest is deserving of this reward and it’s a definite oversight on my part not to have them in my top 3.

The Final Two Pennies

The best part of this year’s Freddie Awards was the ability to celebrate them in person.  That’s no small feat, something we didn’t manage to do the past two years.  There were some surprise winners.  Caesars Rewards had an incredible showing and TAP Portugal took home a truckload of trophies in the European region.  Marriott continues to over perform whereas Hyatt under performs.  Hopefully, we’ll see a flip of that in the future.  And, the rise of Aeroplan was only rivaled by the continued excellence of Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards.

Congrats to all the winners!  Here’s a full list of this year’s winners:

Americas

Airline

Program of the Year – Southwest Airlines – Rapid Rewards

Best Elite Program – American Airlines – AAdvantage

Best Promotion – Avianca – LifeMiles – 175% Bonus on Purchased Miles

Best Customer Service – Southwest Airlines – Rapid Rewards

Best Redemption Ability – Air Canada – Aeroplan

210 Award – Air Canada Aeroplan

 

Hotel

Program of the Year – Marriott Hotels – Marriott Bonvoy

Best Elite Program – Marriott Hotels – Marriott Bonvoy

Best Promotion – Caesars Entertainment – Caesars Rewards – Earn for Next Year

Best Customer Service – Caesars Entertainment – Caesars Rewards

Best Redemption Ability – Marriott Hotels – Marriott Bonvoy

210 Award – Hyatt Hotels – World of Hyatt

 

Credit Card

Best Loyalty Credit Card – Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

 

Europe/Africa

Airline

Program of the Year – TAP Air Portugal – Miles&Go

Best Elite Program – TAP Air Portugal – Miles&Go

Best Promotion – TAP Air Portugal – Miles&Go – Black Friday

Best Customer Service – TAP Air Portugal – Miles&Go

Best Redemption Ability – TAP Air Portugal – Miles&Go

210 Award – Virgin Atlantic – Flying Club

 

Hotel

Program of the Year – Accor – ALL Accor Live Limitless

Best Elite Program – Accor – ALL Accor Live Limitless

Best Promotion – Marriott Hotels – Marriott Bonvoy – Better Two-gether

Best Customer Service – Accor – ALL Accor Live Limitless

Best Redemption Ability – Accor – ALL Accor Live Limitless

210 Award – GHA – GHA Discovery

 

Credit Card

Best Loyalty Credit Card – American Express – Membership Rewards

 

Middle East & Asia/Oceania

Airline

Program of the Year – Singapore Airlines – KrisFlyer

Best Elite Program – Singapore Airlines – KrisFlyer

Best Promotion – Singapore Airlines – KrisFlyer – Earn Status Credit without Flying

Best Customer Service – Singapore Airlines – KrisFlyer

Best Redemption Ability – Singapore Airlines – KrisFlyer

210 Award – Garuda Indonesia – GarudaMiles

 

Hotel

Program of the Year – ITC Hotels – Club ITC

Best Elite Program – ITC Hotels – Club ITC

Best Promotion – ITC Hotels – Club ITC – Reduced Requalification Requirements

Best Customer Service – Marriott Hotels – Marriott Bonvoy

Best Redemption Ability – ITC Hotels – Club ITC

210 Award – Shangri-La – Circle

 

Credit Card

Best Loyalty Credit Card – American Express Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Credit Card

 

 

 

2 Comments

    1. Dan, I disagree a bit. No question large membership programs can connect with a large number of voters quickly. But, some of the winners this year (Caesars) show it’s not all about the big guys.

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