This week I attended the annual Freddie Awards. It’s my 4th year attending and marks a major “full circle” moment for me as a “travel blogger”. The night (as always) was a ton of fun for travel geeks, but there was one shocking surprise leaving many to ask: “Were the Freddie Awards Bonvoy’d?”

All About the Freddie Awards

Billed as the “Voice of the Frequent Flyer”, each year the Freddie Awards name the top travel loyalty programs, as voted by the public. This year 7.1 MILLION votes for 223 loyalty programs were collected from 237 languages. Votes are cast using a “value voting” system which doesn’t just tally up total number of votes, but allows participants to rank their top three in each category.

The awards are named after Sir Freddie Laker, a pioneer of the aviation industry and founder of Laker Airways Limited, the largest individually and privately owned airline in the world.

My first Freddie Awards was back in 2016 thanks to a twist of fate. The week of the awards just so happened to find me in Las Vegas , wrapping up my tenure on the Results Junkies Tech Tour. One of the tour participants (and now my podcasting partner in crime) Ed Pizza invited me to attend. Some might say that was the day I went from being a coworking blogger to a coworking AND travel blogger.

2019 Freddie Award Winners

Here’s the full list of winners:

Americas

Airline

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
210 AWARD — Air Canada – Aeroplan

Hotel

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
210 AWARD — Caesars Entertainment – Caesars Rewards

Credit Card

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

Europe & Africa

Airline

Program of the Year — Norwegian Air – Norwegian Reward
Best Elite Program — Aeroflot Bonus
Best Promotion — AIR FRANCE/KLM – Flying Blue
Best Customer Service — Aeroflot Bonus
Best Redemption Ability — AIR FRANCE/KLM – Flying Blue
210 AWARD — TAP Portugal – Victoria Programme

Hotel

Program of the Year — Accor Hotels – Le Club Accorhotels
Best Elite Program — Marriott Hotels – Marriott Bonvoy
Best Promotion — IHG – IHG Rewards Club 
Best Customer Service — Accor Hotels – Le Club Accorhotels
Best Redemption Ability — IHG – IHG Rewards Club
210 AWARD — NH Hotel Group – NH Rewards

Credit Card

Best Affinity Credit Card — Norwegian Air – Norwegian Reward – Bank Norwegian Norwegian Card

Middle East & Asia/Oceania

Airline

Program of the Year — Virgin Australia – Velocity
Best Elite Program — Virgin Australia – Velocity
Best Promotion — Virgin Australia – Velocity
Best Customer Service — Virgin Australia – Velocity
Best Redemption Ability — Virgin Australia – Velocity
210 AWARD — ANA – ANA Mileage Club

Hotel

Program of the Year — IHG – IHG Rewards Club 
Best Elite Program — Hyatt – World of Hyatt
Best Promotion — IHG – IHG Rewards Club
Best Customer Service — Accor Hotels – Le Club Accorhotels
Best Redemption Ability — IHG – IHG Rewards Club 
210 AWARD — ITC Hotels – Club ITC

Credit Card

Best Affinity Credit Card — American Express – Membership Rewards – American Express

Shock & Awe…Bonvoy!

It wasn’t a major surprise that the Marriott Bonvoy program won Best Redemption Ability. Even through a technical nightmare of a merger, there were some bright spots for award bookings, prior to peak/non-peak and top Category 8 pricing. The part of the evening where you could feel the air being sucked out of the room was when they were announced as Program of the Year.

Did anyone in the room expect that? No way. Most of all, the table full of Marriott executives sitting right behind me. Knowing that the voting process has been designed to mitigate size based advantages, most in “the know” came to the following conclusions: Either post SPG merger, Marriott is just “too big to fail” OR perhaps their CEO Arne Sorensen is right, and those who are disgruntled are just “noise around the fringe”.

There will certainly be plenty of chatter in these circles until next year’s awards, but it’s hard to not see some parallels between results and promotional marketing. United Airlines makes never sends out any emails to members and they haven’t won in the four years I’ve attended. There’s certainly nothing wrong with encouraging your members to vote for your program, but is there a size too big even for a value voting system?

Last year Accor Hotels really cleaned up, yet even with the same marketing push, this year not so much. So, I guess we’ll have to wait until 2020 and see what the “Voice of the Frequent Flyer” says next year!

The post These are 2019’s Top Travel Loyalty Programs was first published on Coworkaholic.

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