When the Freddie Awards were introduced in January 1989 in “Frequent” newsletter (the predecessor to InsideFlyer magazine), I was ecstatic that we as a publication had convinced over 1,000 travelers to take the time to tell us which programs were the “unabashed personal and entirely official best of 1988.” I still remember the day I wrote that a Freddie was given to Delta Frequent Flyer for being the first program to offer triple mileage. Marriott (then Honored Guest Program) won the very first Freddie for Best Newsletter among all programs, airline and hotel. Continental/Eastern won the first (and its first) Freddie for Best Frequent Flyer Program. And another winner that first year was Diners Club Club Rewards.
It seems so long ago as we celebrate the 16th year of the Freddies and though many years have passed, and some frequent travelers, as well as various frequent traveler programs, have come and gone, one thing has remained constant: the public knows best. It’s not me, as editor of InsideFlyer that matters, it’s the consensus of over 250,000 travelers. The Freddies have found a home among the public, and with the most generous sponsorship of companies such as Nextel, Executive Traveler/SkyGuide, USAToday.com, SmarterLiving.com and Points.com, I’m thrilled to have the honor of announcing this year’s winners.
Last year Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan introduced itself as the Program of the Year. This year with a healthier economy, we were sure to see some of the larger programs return to their illustrious glory and take home a fair share of Freddie crystal. As you’ll read though, Mileage Plan is the real thing and its partnership with American Airlines makes the program that much better. Among hotels, Starwood Preferred Guest continues to rack up the Freddies. No hotel program has won such a large share of the Freddies as consistently as SPG has in the last four years. International frequent flyer programs seem to be experiencing a return to the past. While Skywards and Flying Dutchman continue to fly high. SAS EuroBonus has returned to the scene after a few tough years and has evidently cleared some space in Stockholm to store more trophies. And the rise of Swiss TravelClub from the ashes of the former Freddie Award-winning Qualiflier program is sure to have folks in Zurich up all night.
But for every Freddie winner, there are other stories of programs on the rise. This year we have noticed the Frontier Airlines EarlyReturns program earn some respectable finishes in more than one category, while over in the hotel corridor the promotional efforts of IHG Priority Club Rewards might very well be making Starwood nervous — or maybe not. Starwood has found a successful formula for winning the loyalty of its members and with very few stubs, could very well continue its dynasty.
The little program that could, Diners Club Club Rewards, claims its seventh Freddie in a row in the Best Affinity Credit Card category. This run of Freddies matches two other record holders; both Continental OnePass and Marriott Rewards have won seven consecutive Freddie Awards in a category (Marriott with Customer Service and Continental with Elite Level).
I’m pleased to share the results. So please, go to http://www.freddieawards.com and click on the Winner’s Circle link to find out all the winners and to see how close some of the voting was. And look beyond the results to read selected comments from those who voted — perhaps you’ll even see one of your own comments.
– Randy Petersen