The 2009 Freddie Awards

The 21st Annual Freddie Awards were held this past Thursday at the Hilton Fort Lauderdale, and I had the opportunity to attend. Randy Petersen generously invites FlyerTalkers to attend, so this was the second year in a row I took him up on the offer (last year was in Phoenix).

The Freddie Awards aren’t just a quick award show, but rather a whole evening and night of fun, starting at around 4:30PM and going well past midnight. This year the cocktail reception was out by the pool (starting in the afternoon), inhabited mostly by industry representatives. This is where I had the chance to speak with all the United representatives as well as the (very funny) Lufthansa representative. The Freddie Awards are one of the few opportunities we have as frequent flyers to make suggestions to the industry folks in such a direct way.

The cocktail reception was followed by dinner, which was followed by the awards ceremony. I always find the results to be interesting, since it’s not just a matter of getting the most votes, but rather a “value vote,” whereby voters rate how important certain categories/programs are to them.

Now, as far as the hotel programs go, I’m always surprised by how well Marriott performs. They have some of the highest elite qualification requirements and their elite benefits are fairly limited compared to most of the other programs. Nonetheless, if a program can offer relatively limited elite benefits and get such high marks from customers, more power to them. It will be interesting to see if there’s a shift in the results next year, given that Hyatt has introduced free internet for all elite members along with electronic suite upgrades for their Diamond members.

On the airline front, I think we see just how disgruntled frequent flyers are nowadays. This year, for example, AirTran scored higher in the “Best Elite-level Program” than United, Delta, and American, for example, which I can’t understand. It seems that a lot of people vote based on the progressions of the individual program over time, meaning they’re comparing their favorite elite program this year to the same program five years ago, instead of looking at the big picture. I certainly understand the frustration frequent travelers have with the legacy airlines, but I think they still have the best elite levels, no matter how you slice it.

As much as I’m frustrated by United raising award redemption levels, blocking some partner inventory, and limiting upgrade space, I think they still have a great frequent flyer program. The same goes for American, which hasn’t had such drastic cutbacks, yet only scored in seventh place in the “best elite level” category.

It just comes to show you that the best program isn’t necessarily the one that has the most benefits, but rather the program which does the best job managing customer expectations.

Comments

  1. yea, no kidding. C’mon Lucky, you know we’re all waiting anxiously to be enlightened as to why Starnet blocking is a good thing!

  2. Nothing against Randy, but the weird results IMO just show that the votes aren’t really representative of reality. I didn’t vote and don’t recall that anyone (any program really) asked me to vote. Maybe Marriott and AirTran just went all-out spamming their members, and my programs didn’t? (I am not a member of those two programs).

  3. As a long time flier who has now retired, I can tell you the last sentence of your article is spot on. ( as it should be!!)

  4. I have such a hard time with these results. I am a member Platinum Member of both Starwood (SPG) and Priority Club (InterContinental Hotels Group) and the comparison is startling… SPG wins hands down on the service, the quality, the value, in every way. There are only a few rooms allocated for redemption on Priority whereas there are always rooms available with SPG, just to mention one issue…… I think this must be fixed…… quite disturbing in fact to read these results. I have no faith or believe there are any crediblility to these results.

  5. I cannot make intelligent remarks about any of these programs, as I am a five-year member of HGVC and Hilton Honors. We live in Europe and have used this program all over the world in our travels. Their service is excellent and even though their Elite Program is relatively new, they should be compared to some of these older programs. For many of us (Europeans) the very best Frequent Flyer program is the alliance between Airfrance and KLM. Look them up and compare. BTW, I am American.

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