Freddie Awards Results 2014

This past Thursday the 26th annual Freddie Awards were held at the Museum of Flight near Seattle, Washington. For those of you not familiar with the Freddies, they’re intended to recognize the best frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs. Everyone can vote, and with millions upon millions of votes cast, winning a Freddie Award is kind of a big deal.

The Freddies venue was amazing

I’ve attended a handful of the Freddie Awards ceremonies, and in terms of venue this one couldn’t be beat. It was held on the “floor” of the Museum of Flight. As an airplane nerd, having dinner under an M-21 Blackbird was pretty epic.

Freddie-Awards-2014-1

The event is also fun because you get to interact with your favorite (and least favorite) executives from the airline and hotel industry. It’s always interesting to see which airlines don’t even send a representative, which says a lot…

Freddie-Awards-2014-2

The results

Now let’s talk about the results, and then I’ll share my thoughts below.

Here are the results for the Americas:

Airline

Best Customer Service — Southwest Airlines – Rapid Rewards
Best Promotion — Avianca – LifeMiles
Best Elite Program — American Airlines – AAdvantage
Best Redemption Ability — Avianca – LifeMiles
Program of the Year — American Airlines – AAdvantage

Hotel

Best Customer Service — Marriott Hotels – Marriott Rewards
Best Promotion — Marriott Hotels – Marriott Rewards
Best Elite Program — Hyatt – Gold Passport
Best Redemption Ability — Marriott Hotels – Marriott Rewards
Program of the Year — Marriott Hotels – Marriott Rewards

Best Affinity Credit Card — Southwest Airlines – Rapid Rewards Premier Card

Here are the results for Europe & Africa:

Airline

Best Customer Service — SAS – EuroBonus
Best Promotion — AIR FRANCE/KLM – Flying Blue
Best Elite Program — Lufthansa – Miles & More
Best Redemption Ability — AIR FRANCE/KLM – Flying Blue
Program of the Year — AIR FRANCE/KLM – Flying Blue

Hotel

Best Customer Service — IHG – IHG Rewards Club
Best Promotion — IHG – IHG Rewards Club
Best Elite Program — Starwood – Starwood Preferred Guest
Best Redemption Ability — IHG – IHG Rewards Club
Program of the Year — IHG – IHG Rewards Club

Best Affinity Credit Card — Flying Blue American Express

And here are the results for the Middle East & Asia/Oceania:

Airline

Best Customer Service — Virgin Australia – Velocity
Best Promotion — Virgin Australia – Velocity
Best Elite Program— Virgin Australia – Velocity
Best Redemption Ability — Virgin Australia – Velocity
Program of the Year — Virgin Australia – Velocity

Hotel

Best Customer Service — Starwood – Starwood Preferred Guest
Best Promotion — IHG – IHG Rewards Club
Best Elite Program — Hyatt – Gold Passport
Best Redemption Ability — Starwood – Starwood Preferred Guest
Program of the Year — Hyatt – Gold Passport

Best Affinity Credit Card — ADIB Etihad Guest Card

So, now on to my thoughts:

They got best airline & hotel elite program right

In the Americas, the best airline elite program was American AAdvantage and the best hotel elite program was Hyatt Gold Passport. In my opinion that’s spot on, and I’m thrilled that they won, they both deserved it (in American’s case, at least prior to the recent changes they made without notice).

Who doesn’t win is most telling

During the ceremony, the four programs with the highest scores appear on the screen. What I always find interesting is how some airlines don’t even get a single top four score.

In this case, Delta SkyMiles and United MileagePlus didn’t have a single top four score, despite the fact that they both tried to “get out the vote.” This isn’t a coincidence or fluke — hopefully it sends a clear message to the airlines as to how pissed their members are.

Marriott does an amazing job managing expectations

I’m loyal to both Hyatt Gold Passport and Starwood Preferred Guest, and find both of the programs to be awesome. In a way, the biggest downside to being loyal to either/both chains is that they don’t have nearly as many properties as IHG or Marriott.

It’s interesting that in the Americas Marriott won four of the five hotel categories, including best customer service, best promotion, best redemption ability, and program of the year.

And they consistently do this well. Last year they won four of the five categories, and the previous year they won five of the six categories.

How? I’m not quite sure. They have the highest elite qualification tier of any major hotel program (as a matter of fact, qualifying for their mid-tier status takes as many nights as qualifying for top tier status with Hyatt or Starwood), and promise the fewest benefits.

Yet their members still love them. I mean, their top tier status requires 75 nights per year, and on paper you don’t even get guaranteed suite upgrades based on availability, breakfast at resorts, guaranteed late check-out, etc.

Are the voting results just not reflective of reality? Or do they do such a good job managing member expectations since they promise so little and will often deliver more? Is it because their members don’t often “sleep around” since Marriott has them covered everywhere, so they don’t know what they’re missing? Or is it simply because of how many properties they have around the world?

I mean, Marriott massively devalued their program last year by adding a Category 9 and increasing the cost of redemptions at 35% of their hotels, while this year they increased the cost of redemptions at 21% of their hotels.

Fascinating…

It might be time to split up regions more

Admittedly airline and hotel loyalty programs are still much bigger in the US than in the rest of the world. That being said, I think splitting up the world into only three regions really doesn’t do any programs justice.

For example, take a look at the results for the Middle East & Asia/Oceania — Virgin Australia Velocity won every single category. I totally understand why they won — people in Australia are pissed with Qantas and passionately prefer Virgin Australia, and this was one way to make that clear. At the same time, does it really make sense to put them up against Asian and Middle Eastern airlines when for the most part it’s a completely different voting base?

Similarly, I love how “the Americas” are one region, so Avianca is going to head-to-head against US programs, even though they overlap on a tiny number of routes and are catering to totally different passenger.

Again, I assume over time the awards will evolve, but I do find the regions to be somewhat arbitrary.

What do you think? Do the results reflect how you voted?

Freddie-Awards-2014-3

Comments

  1. As a former elite with Air France/KLM – Flying Blue, I can testify that their winning ANY Freddy Award is simply ridiculous. There has been a huge devaluation of their chart, and they pretty much assassinated the only decent thing that remained, which are the Promo Awards (almost no premium classes offered anymore). Kinda hard to take Freddy Awards seriously, even though it is apparently based on popular vote.

  2. Mostly an exclusively Marriott person here. I’m upset at the devaluations year upon year, but I’ve still been able to get mostly great value out of MegaBonus and Cat 1-5 certificates. That may end with the newest round. I just made Gold, and I like it so far; the guaranteed lounge is above other brands. I find the cost to be nearly consistently the lowest, the coverage to be great, and the quality to be consistent. Not spectacular, but not awful like some 4 Points I’ve been to.

  3. Maybe it’s me, I read about who wins these awards every year but I don’t get “Freddie Award is kind of a big deal”. As you point out Marriott was a great ROI ditto United/Delta, now it’s not.

  4. @ alcw — Why is it a big deal? Check out the front page of aa.com. Not saying the results are necessarily significant, but the winning programs love showing off their Freddies.

  5. aaaah yes. Celebrating the dwindling loyalty programs! I recall Priority club heavily lobbying for votes some years ago, when they won… 30 days later that had a significant downgrade to their program.

    I say.. really look at your loyalty programs every six months and be ruthless in acessing their worth to you..

  6. I wouldn’t say “United tried to get out the vote” – I really don’t think they give an S about this sort of thing (and their financials are indicative of that attitude). Very different than AA.

  7. I think the vote for Air France/KLM was just to spite British Airways, and to slap them in the face. I know I detest BA for their bogus/criminal fuel surcharges.

  8. I totally agree with the Middle East & Asia & Oceania point. Really they should be three separate regions.

    The Middle East big 3 +/- Turkish (while it would probably be in ‘Europe’, it should probably be categorised here for the purposes of these awards) should clearly be separate from other Far Eastern carriers like Singapore or Cathay. Really, they are vying for a somewhat different market. Many people I know have rejected even the thought of flying through the Middle East, as they far prefer having a full 12-13 hours on a flight as opposed to having to break it into 7-8 hour segments.

  9. i find it interesting you say “It’s always interesting to see which airlines don’t even send a representative, which says a lot…” and don’t name the programs.

    why are you protecting them if you think its a big deal? unless you are protecting them bc you have a financial interest with them….

  10. To those asking who didn’t send a representative, I was invited as a guest and don’t think it would be in good taste for me to necessarily reveal that. Delta was there to accept an “Industry Impact Award” for Crossover Rewards, so I’m sure you can guess…

  11. As to who didn’t send a rep – perhaps a picture is worth a thousand words. Just a guess.

  12. “This isn’t a coincidence or fluke — hopefully it sends a clear message to the airlines as to how pissed their members are.”

    When did the voting begin / end?

    Did American have the ‘advantage’ of people voting for them before they announced their devaluation?

    Glad to see DL and UA shut out, hopefully this does have some impact on their decision making?

    With AA’s recent changes, hopefully they’ll be shut out next year too.

    Avianca in a sweep for 2015! 🙂

  13. IMHO, Alaska has the best program. When you look at the benefits at MVP Gold, it’s a strong case. However, they’re too small an airline with too few customers to beat a legacy in votes. Of the major carriers, I agree AA should be it – even post-devaluation.

  14. Here’s why I think Marriott did well:
    1. There’s a Marriott-branded hotel everywhere.
    2. Award night availability is pretty good.
    3. It might be hard to gain elite status – but if you’re a United elite, you get Marriott elite status for free. So there are lots of Marriott elites who didn’t have to earn it by sleeping the required number of nights (10, 50 or 75). I’m guessing that pleasantly-surprised and happy United elites (happy about getting Marriott status, not necessarily about being stuck with Untied) contributed significantly to Marriott’s success this year.

  15. Even though Australians are pissed off with Qantas, the only reason why Virgin won was because of the fact that they sent emails to their members, tellin g them to vote for them. Qantas has a much better elite program, better partnerships with other companies to earn points and IMHO, better customer service. The problem is that none of Qantas’ members knew about the awards.

  16. For those who are curious, yes UA is the one who didn’t show up. they just don’t care and couldn’t care less about how their customers thinking about them. In fact, they are just busy in preparing for another round of devaluation which would be a A-bomb to the world of points. enjoying the show!

  17. Some of the results are rather baffling to me but I guess since it’s a straight-up popular vote and not a panel of experienced travelers, it’s can get a little skewed towards larger programs.

    Still, I guess a rather telling feedback is to see who placed on the bottom.

  18. That DL and UA were shut out is terrific news. I voted for American myself, and still would have after the garbage they pulled a few weeks ago, but shifting loyalties is common.

    For those mystified about Marriott, I was a plat for a number of years, now I’m a gold, and while the program isn’t a leader in my mind, it’s largely solid, and the elite customer service I’ve received has been top notch – so yeah, I chalk it up to setting proper expectations, though I voted for SPG and Hyatt myself.

  19. When that big black bird was in service in the USAF it was definitely known as an SR-71! Mike, you’re Right!

  20. I only have to go by what my brother-in-law says about Marriott. His company uses both Hilton and Marriott. He is Diamond and Platinum Premier respectively. He likes Marriott better because they consistently give him what he needs. He spends over 200 nights a year in hotels. He switches chains for more stays if his vacation plans are for a place that a certain chain has a property he prefers. He’s doing more Marriott because of the Hilton devaluation. But he hasn’t paid for vacation hotel in 15 years.

  21. Ben, Please retract my posts #31 and #33 as you are correct as the aircraft is indeed an M21 drone launch airspace vehicle.

  22. With regards to Marriott’s winning, I believe it’s a combination of factors. As you noted, the chain is widespread, so you can find them everywhere you need to be. Next, a typical frequent traveler is a road warrior who has to watch the company’s budget. They are often required to use mid-level or budget chains. They then use those points for their leisure travel at those same chains. Marriott tends to provide good and consistent customer service so that their travelers are generally satisfied. In contrast, many bloggers go to aspirational properties using points, and have often manipulated the manufactured spend system to gain those points. I am not making a judgement call, simply being pragmatic on why Marriott has consistently won as best program. Bloggers are not typical travelers, and they only get one vote. Typical travelers are not going to aspirational properties so they aren’t comparing a Marriott to a much more expensive hotel with finer amenities and don’t realize they are missing anything. Just my two cents.

  23. Marriott Platinum and SPG platinum here

    I originally was marriott platinum by challenge but decided to keep it on last year after getting the Chase card which gave me enough nights to renew. I certainly prefer SPG but I often find very large cities (Denver, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, Austin) where I end up staying in Marriott because the Starwood properties are too far away from where I am doing business. Also they deliver 100% of what they promise with a smile. Is it crazy that I have to pay for breakfast at Courtyards? Yes but with the weak state of most Sheraton club lounges I honestly prefer a courtyard breakfast. I’ve gotten some incredible suite upgrades at full service marriott properties as well, whereas I would have to fight for that at Starwood even though it’s a specified right. Basically when I walk into a marriott property it feels like they are actually excited to reward me for my loyalty whereas Starwood feels like they are only doing it because SPG forces them to.

    Haven’t tried Hyatt much, the property coverage is even weaker than Starwood. I do have a conference coming up at a Hyatt and plenty of other stays I can swing to that, so I may give them a try with a diamond challenge.

  24. lucky said,

    “To those asking who didn’t send a representative, I was invited as a guest and don’t think it would be in good taste for me to necessarily reveal that.”

    Then maybe you shouldn’t bring it up in the first place. That way nobody has to question your loyalty to the readership. The problem with the Freddies is that no matter how bad it gets someone still has to “win” each category. Which means that it’s guaranteed to become less and less relevant over time as the number of potential “winners” dwindles after each successive mega merger.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *