The Freddie Awards are the loyalty program equivalent of the Oscars or Grammys. An awards ceremony is held every year in late April to recognize the winners. A lot of people vote for these awards (this year, there were over seven million votes cast), and as usual, I can’t make sense of many of the results.
Last night the winners of the Freddies were revealed at a ceremony in Dallas, and the results are as confusing as ever.
2019 Freddie Awards winners
Just to give you a sense of the results, here are the airline winners in the Americas:
- Program of the Year: Southwest Rapid Rewards
- Best Elite Program: American AAdvantage
- Best Customer Service: Southwest Rapid Rewards
- Best Redemption Ability: Southwest Rapid Rewards
Then here are the hotel winners in the Americas:
- Program of the Year: Marriott Bonvoy
- Best Elite Program: World of Hyatt
- Best Customer Service: Caesars Rewards
- Best Redemption Ability: Marriott Bonvoy
My take on the Freddie Awards results
I generally put Freddie Awards results into one of three categories:
- Results I agree with
- Results that I don’t agree with, but I understand why others might have voted how they did
- Results I can’t make sense of
World of Hyatt winning best elite program? That I agree with. That’s well deserved, because World of Hyatt has made some very nice improvements to the program. They might not have the biggest global footprint, but I do think they have the best elite program.
Southwest Rapid Rewards winning program of the year? That I don’t agree with, though I understand why people voted the way they did. Southwest is an airline with great customer service, they have no fees on award tickets, and the program is straightforward and easy to use. That being said, I don’t find it to be particularly rewarding.
American AAdvantage winning best elite program? That’s something I can’t really make sense of. That’s an award that Alaska Mileage Plan deserved.
But Marriott Bonvoy winning the “program of the year” award? That’s something I both can’t agree with and also can’t make sense of.
What’s even more shocking is that voting this year took place between February 15 and March 31, which coincided with the launch of Bonvoy. To say that members were frustrated at this point would be an understatement.
How are Freddie Awards results determined?
So, how is it possible that Marriott won? Well, for one, there’s a high correlation between companies that send emails to members encouraging them to vote, and those that do well. Marriott has 100 million plus members, and they sent out two emails to everyone this year.
But the Freddies isn’t supposed to be a popularity contest. That’s because they use a “value voting” system that is intended to not just tally up total votes, but also take into account how passionately people feel about their votes, by letting people prioritize them.
Sure, there’s some positive impact from people voting just because they are encouraged to do so by the program. But Marriott’s loyalty program since last August has been a bit of a mess, so to see them win is just plain puzzling.
Now to be completely balanced, I want to note that I think Marriott deserved the “best redemption ability” award. While the IT of the program and execution has largely been a mess, Marriott has offered some incredible award values as they create a new program, as they didn’t have peak and off-peak award pricing, and also didn’t have Category 8 pricing.
But to see Marriott Bonvoy win program of the year is something I can’t make sense of.
This raises the question of whether the people voting are just not informed consumers, or if we are in some sort of echo chamber here where our complaints about Marriott Bonvoy are really just “noise around the edges,” as Arne Sorensen describes it?