Some Thoughts on Results at the Freddie Awards

I wasn’t at the Freddie Awards this year, during the ceremony I was in the Thai Airways first class spa at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport.  So I don’t have a lot to share about the event.  But I’ve been reviewing the results.

Certainly I have a different take on who should have won in many cases, I wouldn’t call Alaska’s MVP Gold the best airline elite status for instance. 

But what really struck me was Delta Skymiles winning the best elite level in Europe.  Delta offers almost nothing to the European elite members (although European addressed Skymiles accounts have historically earned Platinum status with only 50,000 elite qualifying miles).  There’s no complimentary upgrade program except when Europeans have already crossed the pond.  It’s a terrible program for international upgrades.  And what else is there, really, for a US-based airline’s elite program from the perspective of a European member?

Similarly, how Marriott can win any best elite level awards is beyond me. The program explicitly excludes suites from the upgrade benefit. Top tier members get lounge access, or the occasional generosity of a hotel that goes above and beyond the program benefits itself. Big deal. I can see an argument for Intercontinental Royal Ambassador, but generally speaking Starwood Platinum is the best top tier elite level offered by a major hotel program, period. At least for the current Freddie Awards that are looking back on last year. Going forward Hyatt’s Diamond status offers incredible value…

I get how Hilton earns “best award redemption” since they’ve matched Starwood’s no capacity controls on awards. But how Starwood finishes 5th in the category makes no sense at all.

Starwood seems to fare the best across the board in Asia, and having just returned from Asia I’d expect this is much a function of the phenomenal properties they have rather than of the program itself (though those outstanding properties are generally also quite good with elite recognition).

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, 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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  1. I think they need to discontinue this awards program or radically change the methodology. It’s obvious to any frequent flyer that there’s something wrong going on. Like Choice Hotels program scores higher than Starwood. Huh? Somehow I have elite status in the Choice program, and I’m not really sure exactly what it gets me!

    There are numerous other screw-ups and oddities. Not sure how anyone can say Southwest has a better frequent flyer program than Continental. Maybe somebody could prefer FLYING Southwest (which would be odd, but possible), or DEALING with Southwest (I’m personally fond of their change policies) but who could say they have a better FREQUENT FLYER program? Is that heavily-capacity controlled coach award to Boise after 16 flights really something to strive for? Or are people salivating about the opportunity to get a low number boarding pass after a zillion segments? Get real. This has become a bad joke. End it.

  2. So what happened to United? They are so far superior to Delta, Southwest and Alaska they’re not even in the same league. Do some people get tired of the “ol Gray ‘n Blue?” Sure, but they take care of their frequent flyers and have a pretty damned good attitude to boot.

  3. I can say that Southwest has a better frequent flyer program because I can actually redeem an award at any time on any flight. I had a Continental award that I could not redeem for over ten years because they put such stringent limits on the number of seats allowed for awards (and I was not trying to go anywhere fancy). Now you can redeem awards on a lot of airlines if you are willing to spend double award miles…

  4. And another thing…I like Marriott’s reward program…especially now when they have lifted blackout periods. Yes, agreed, it would be nice to be able to upgrade to a suite or concierge level using points (and not extra $$), but all in all I have been able to redeem my marriott rewards nearly any time I wanted to. I’ve been in the Marriott Reward program since 1983.

  5. When I first read the list of winners I assumed it was some kind of joke.

    This year, even more than in previous years, the list has exposed the Freddies as unrepresentative and embarrassing at best and susiciously misleading at worst.

    I think they should not only be ended but also investigated.

  6. The Freddie Award results are starting to smell of pay-for-play… When I see results like these, I step back and go “whoa — maybe I’ve been wrong all along”, but then I talk to other people, recallmy personal experiences, read this blog and and my previously held notions are reconfirmed and my confusion about these results is reinforced.

    I suspect that the programs that win are the ones that are best at marketing votes for themselves amongst their own membership and employees, pure and simple.


  7. One thing I know that is wrong with the Freddies is that it is voted on. I get to vote on Asian and European awards, yet do not fly or stay there. This give me no experience except American experience to vote on. I see this as a major flaw.
    Maybe I should not vote on foreign programs

  8. Come on Freddie,
    admit it !
    How much have these “Winners” been paying for these results?

  9. The weighting algorithm used to compute order of finish in the Freddies is so torturously complicated and manipulable, it makes the awards impossible to take seriously.

  10. It’s ballot stuffing pure and simple, just as when some really dead-boring average hotel in Cancun comes out on top in the T & L “readers poll.” I’ve worked for two companies that strongly encouraged their employees to vote in these manufactured “best of” awards and I’m sure it doesn’t take much of that effort to overwhelm the votes of real frequent travelers.

  11. I am just totally overwhelmed by these results. I posted something similar earlier. As a platinum member of both Starwood (SPG) and Priority (InterContinental) I cannot buy these results in North America…. SPG is head and shoulders above Priority. To get enough points to qualify for one free night at Priority you have to really work for it as the points are given out most sparingly….. and then the rooms you get are crap… with SPG, they reward you platinum status whether you use points or cash…. this is a travesty and someone should be ashamed of themselves for this injustice. In North America, SPG is the best!!!!!

  12. Whoa!! I am an American living in Europe and my husband and I travel extensively. Five years ago we were introduced to HGVC (Hilton Grand Vacation Club and all of its programs and services-airlines, reward program, resorts, etc). You should try them; maybe then some of these TOP WINNERS would disappear from your “OSCAR” list. I say 10+ for HGVC, Hilton Honors and the agreements they have with AMERICAN AIRLINES.

  13. As a westerner long term resident in Asia (12 years) flying regionally, I am amazed that Cathay Pacific does not get a mention. Superior, heart-warming personal service pre-board, on-board (no matter what class) and through all points of contact – website, promotions, etc etc.

    Most of the comments seem to point to one thing: the survey is faulty and biased
    Disclaimer: I have no professional or personal association with Cathay.

  14. Not sure how often the above-posting “Prince” travels, but the idea that a Southwest award is much more easily redeemable than a Continental award is ancient history. The ever- tightening availability of award seats on Southwest has sunk that program from a frequent flyer perspective. Mind you, the airline is still good for certain circumstances (cancelling your rez and getting a credit for the whole ticket amount is wonderful), but it’s not a great airline to fly for its frequent flyer program.

    So while I agree with others that “ballot stuffing” could play a role in these awards, I think ignorance also plays a part. It generally takes several years for an airlines reputation (good or bad) to catch up with reality. Like when Continental was rapidly improving in the late 90s, most people still thought they were a crummy airline. Not everyone flies or stays with the airlines/hotels to know that latest situation.

  15. Congratulations to Marriot and all winning Hotels and love to Marriot Islamabad Pakistan

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