An Amazing Night at the Frequent Traveler Awards

The first annual Frequent Traveler Award ceremony was held yesterday in Houston, and I had the great honor to be a part of it — as Chair of the Nominations Committee and as presenter of the Hotel Program of the Year award in each of three regions (Americas, Europe and Africa, Middle East & Asia-Pacific).

Throughout the evening the ballroom was packed

We had about 250 people in all, equally divided between representatives of the industry and the traveling public.

The trophies were all lined up, ready to distribute

And here I am doing just that:

While each of the presenters waited to come up, we sat at the corner of the stage in Continental’s new business class seat

Full results from the evening are available on the awards’ website, and the full Powerpoint presentation is available there as well showing the top four finalists in each category and their average scores.

The big winners on the night were:

  • Aeroplan as Program of the Year for the Americas
  • United Mileage Plus as Best Elite Program for the Americas
  • Lufthansa Miles & More as the clear standout European program and Kingfisher in Middle East & Asia Pacific
  • Marriott taking home most of the honors for hotel programs, though not any for their elite program. Hyatt took home best elite program in two of the three regions, with Starwood picking up Europe

When Delta Skymiles showed up on the screen as a top four finisher for “Best Redemption Ability” the frequent travelers — all 120 of them in the back of the room, more or less — audibly gasped. And then when Delta fell off the screen first, indicating a fourth place finish, their was a collective sigh of relief back there. It was a truly funny moment, I wonder what the Delta executives in attendance thought!

Delta did pick up best promotion for redemption, however, with their international upgrade for one mile offer from 2009 (which required purchase of quite an expensive coach ticket to qualify, but it was still an intriguing offer).

Naturally, there’s already much hand-wringing over the results, see for instance Loyalty Traveler‘s take on the various winners in the hotel categories. But in many categories they’re not the winners I would have chosen, though I chaired the nominations committee I had only one vote. Hundreds of thousands of travelers expressed what they believed offered them the most value. And that’s precisely what these awards represent, the views of the traveling public. Still, I try to write this blog to sway their opinion now and then…

In addition to the awards voted by the traveling public, the Committee itself bestowed two “Loyalty Leadership Awards” for innovative contributions that programs made in 2009 for their members.

United’s well-known Captain Denny presented SAS Eurobonus with an honor for eliminating fuel surcharges on award redemptions.

And Karen Heldt of Frequent Flyer Services presented Hyatt Gold Passport with an honor for their introduction of confirmed suite upgrades, delivering the benefits members want most when they most want them.

After the awards, Seth Miller started a thread on Flyertalk to track the elusive ‘final’ award, the one not given out at the ceremony.. the extra one that’s dedicated to the traveling public.

(For years Flyertalk members have been traveling and sharing ‘Freddie Junior’ .. a replica of an award presented to Flyertalk itself for the role of community and social media in changing the way loyalty programs interact with their members, Freddie Jr. is tracked here.)

FT Junior has taken his first flight, onboard Alaska Airlines Houston-Seattle flight (in first class, naturally). And this entry and photo are being posted from the sky. Here he is on my tray table, complete with special limited-edition Flyertalk pink breast cancer research luggage tag.

I’ll likely turn him over to some other Flyertalkers this weekend, unless they convince me that he needs to make his first visit to Lufthansa’s First Class Terminal in Frankfurt later this month .. in which case I’ll keep him a little longer.

Next year’s Frequent Traveler Awards ceremony will be held April 28th. Hard to believe it’s time to do this all over again!

Thanks to Tommy Danielson for his leadership for making this all possible, the rest of the hardworking Frequent Traveler Awards team of course, and to Randy Petersen for the gift of the Freddie Awards in whose large shadow we follow and without whose advice and support we wouldn’t have succeeded.

(Credit Flyertalk’s middle_seat for the photos.)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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