There are awards where a panel of experts gets together to give out an award based on their own opinion. There are awards where companies pay sponsorship fees and keep winning their sponsored award. And then there’s the oldest and largest consumer-driven awards in airline, hotel and credit card loyalty: the Freddie Awards.
Voting in the Freddie Awards is now open and runs through March 31st. The Freddie Awards are the voice of the frequent traveler. Each year millions cast their ballots for the very best in loyalty, and the industry comes together at the awards ceremony the last Thursday in April to see the winners (and each other).
Full disclosure, Randy Petersen, Ed Pizzarello, and I run the Freddies. It is a passion project, not a profitable enterprise (in fact we aren’t making any money doing it). Petersen founded the Freddies in 1988, named for Sir Freddie Laker, the marketing pioneer who made transatlantic travel affordable. I was honored to meet the late Sir Freddie at the award ceremony in 2002.
Some of what makes the Freddie Awards unique:
- Sheer number of votes make the results difficult to influence. While there are extensive checks on the back end to catch programs (or anyone else) trying to stuff the ballot box, the sheer fact that over 4 million program members are voting makes influencing the vote difficult.
Indeed, since so many programs share the opportunity to vote with their members even get out the vote efforts (on which the awards places limits) have only limited effect, when IHG or Hilton emails their members those members cast ballots on the airline side too. And American AAdvantage members rank order their preferred hotel programs.
- Sponsorship doesn’t influence the outcome. The main sponsor the past four years has been a bank that issues credit cards. Their cards haven’t won any awards. No airline or hotel program is approached to sponsor, the rest of companies involved are vendors and partners. They all do it either to give back to the industry, or to highlight themselves in front of current and potential customers and vendors (business development).
- Program members directly determine the winner. This isn’t a game where voters ‘nominate’ programs and then the same company seeking sponsors picks the winner. I often wouldn’t make the same choices as the voter about who wins, but I have no influence over the outcome and neither does any other individual.
- Small programs stand just as much of a chance as large ones since voters rank order their preferred programs first, second and third and the winner is the one with the highest average ranking not the most number of votes. (A program does need to be ranked by at least 2% of the voters in a category to be eligible to win.) So a small program that members feel delivers value can and often will best the largest programs with the most members voting.
I spend a great deal of time in November and December talking to programs to get their input for the best promotion category in the awards. During January I put the ballot together. Then Ed has it translated into several languages and put up onto the voting platform for testing before we go live.
Here I am with last year’s emcee Leland Vittert along with Mommy Points and Deals We Like before the event:
Last year’s airline and hotel winners:
Program of the Year — Southwest Airlines > Rapid Rewards
Best Elite Program — American Airlines > AAdvantage
Best Promotion — Avianca > LifeMiles
Best Customer Service — Southwest Airlines > Rapid Rewards
Best Redemption Ability — Southwest Airlines > Rapid Rewards
Program of the Year — Marriott Hotels > Marriott Bonvoy
Best Elite Program — Hyatt > World of Hyatt
Best Promotion — Marriott Hotels > Marriott Bonvoy
Best Customer Service — Caesars Entertainment > Caesars Rewards
Best Redemption Ability — Marriott Hotels > Marriott Bonvoy
You may agree or disagree with the outcome, but you can’t complain if you don’t vote.