I just cast my votes for the Freddie Awards. Go cast yours.
I picked United’s Mileage Plus as airline Program of the Year because they continue to offer one elite qualifying mile per mile flown on any fare, permit upgrading internationally on almost all fares for top level elites (and on mid-level fares for all members), and started recognizing customers who fly 125,000 miles or more with additional benefits.
Admittedly, American matches those first two, but United was also the real innovator over the past year — with their “Great Offer” providing status miles for competitor frequent flyer statements, first out of the box with “Fly 3, Get 1 Free” and now announcing a coming music partnership with Sony.
I chose American for best award redemption. Southwest is a frequent winner in this category because of their ‘no capacity controls’ concept, but I rule out an airline that doesn’t allow international and premium cabin redemption. American just seems to have the best award availability for the awards I want.
Alaska was my choice for best customer service, and Northwest for best website. I did not vote for Best Newsletter.
My choice for hotel Program of the Year was Starwood. They consistently deliver the best elite benefits (upgrades – Marriott is virtually nonexistent here) and the best award redemption (no capacity controls, something Hilton matches only for their Diamond elites).
Best hotel customer service is also clearly (to me) Starwood for one reason and one reason alone — William Sanders, the Starwood Lurker.
Best hotel bonus, though, belongs hands down to Hyatt for their Faster Free Nights promo: pay with Mastercard, stay twice, and earn a free night at any Hyatt hotel. Stay twice at a cheap airport location, redeem at an expensive resort destination. That’s well beyond anything its competitors were offering.
I still argue that the Starwood American Express is the best affinity credit card, even better than perennial winner Diners Club. If Diners were more widely accepted in the U.S., I’d probably change my mind.
What will your picks be?