By the time you read this, the news of this year’s Freddie Awards will be old hat. With a record turnout in New York, pleasant weather and some great memories, it will be difficult to wait until next year when we crank it all back up. For those readers who made it, either to the pre-Freddie Party or to the actual awards, I hope you had a marvelous time and the most important thing is I thank you for your vote. As many of you know, I started the Freddies because it was difficult to always answer the constant question of which airline has the best frequent flyer program (or best hotel program or best credit card program for that matter). It’s difficult because there are so many factors that contribute to my advice in answering that very question. However specific that may be, there’s also the other side of what the public knows. Every day (OK, almost every day) there are programs which deliver value to their members and the goal of the Freddies is to find those people and ask them what they think about the frequent traveler programs they have chosen to be active with. So far we are succeeding, with some 163,000 travelers such as yourself, contributing to what the answer is to that question–which airline has the best programs.
Inside this issue you’ll find the “official” program of the Freddie Awards winners and the balloting results. What you won’t find are the results of some special awards I personally like to give out. Over time these have consisted of “Rising Star” awards for programs that are doing new and innovative things but which might not get the attention given to the larger programs. Also there could have been an award granted for exceptional impact on the industry. In 2000, I didn’t see anything that really caught my eye and that I felt deserved the attention of this readership. As a result, there were no Rising Stars. I did however, think it was time to formally recognize the beginnings of this industry, which is the topic of this month’s cover story. So, by the powers granted me as the Editor and Publisher of InsideFlyer magazine, I present the winners of this year’s Industry Impact Awards.
On May 1, 1981, American AAdvantage launched the world’s first mileage-based frequent flyer program and the rest is history. Time and time again, AAdvantage has led the industry with pioneering partnerships — what other program offered miles for giving blood, or for that matter watching television? AAdvantage is also the cornerstone of the oneworld alliance. As the precursor to frequent flyer programs, as we know them, AAdvantage continues to lead the way down the runway and we can only wonder what is next. The words inscribed on the Tiffany crystal, which I presented to the AAdvantage program at the Freddies, are: American AAdvantage, which made a decision on May 1, 1981 to introduce the world’s first mileage-based frequent flyer program. The impact of this decision changed the airline industry and the lives of millions of travelers.
United Mileage Plus
Hot on the heels of American AAdvantage came United Mileage Plus. In fact, United responded so quickly to the launch of the American AAdvantage program that United often has been credited for launching the first program. But the truth is, the United Mileage Plus program is 20 years old on May 6, just six short days and many late nights after the launch of American’s AAdvantage program on May 1. Perhaps it was this short time period that propelled the other airline programs into existence. But one thing is for sure; the very presence of United made programs a serious endeavor for airlines, right from the start. United’s impact was felt immediately as even American AAdvantage altered its program to get rid of its 12-month expiration period. TWA and Delta responded with their programs by the year end. This was no longer a one-horse race. United Mileage Plus is the lynch pin of the Star Alliance and solicits an unusual passion from it’s members. This passion is evident on FlyerTalk where the United Mileage Plus forum is easily the most posted. Need I say more?