The 2020 Freddie Awards winners were announced last night.  Loyalty program guru Randy Petersen started the Freddie Awards in 1988 to recognize the world’s best frequent travel programs.  Awards are open to all airline, hotel, or credit card loyalty programs that issue miles, points, or other credits in a frequent flyer program or frequent guest program.

Members of travel loyalty programs determine Freddie Award winners through  online voting.  This year members cast more than 4 million votes.

Nominees are determined by contacting travel loyalty programs to establish their listing as well as their nomination for entry in the Best Promotion category.  InsideFlyer magazine and the Freddie Awards Committee may also participate in submitting entries for Best Promotion.

Voters cast ballots for their favorite travel loyalty program in one of three geographical regions for airline and hotel programs in five categories plus a selection for best loyalty program credit card.

A 210 Award is given to the best scoring program that is ranked by fewer than 10% of voters. It’s meant to recognize an up and coming program delivering value to members that may not yet be on the radar of many frequent travelers.

There are some clear cut winners among hotels and airlines and a lot of carryover from the 2019 results.

In the America’s, airline winners were unchanged from 2019 with Southwest Airlines winning every category except Best Elite Program and Best Promotion.  Marriott continued to dominate the hotel category with wins in three of five categories including Program of the year.

In Europe, Accor made a clean sweep of all five hotel categories replacing IHG for Best Promotion and Best Redemption Ability and Marriott for Best Elite Program. Norwegian Air strengthened its claim as the most popular European program.

Middle East & Africa voters placed Virgin Australia first in all airline categories for the second year in a row.  ITC Hotels and Marriott claimed victories in hotel categories at the expense of IHG and Hyatt.

Here are the 2020 winners:

The Americas


Program of the Year — Southwest Airlines > Rapid Rewards
Best Elite Program — American Airlines > AAdvantage
Best Promotion — Avianca > LifeMiles
Best Customer Service — Southwest Airlines > Rapid Rewards
Best Redemption Ability — Southwest Airlines > Rapid Rewards

210 AWARD — Air Canada > Aeroplan


Program of the Year — Marriott Hotels > Marriott Bonvoy
Best Elite Program — Hyatt > World of Hyatt
Best Promotion — Marriott Hotels > Marriott Bonvoy
Best Customer Service — MGM – M life Rewards
Best Redemption Ability — Marriott Hotels > Marriott Bonvoy

210 AWARD — ALL > Accor Live Limitless

Credit Card

Best Loyalty Credit Card — Southwest Airlines > Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card from Chase

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2015 Freddie Awards Delta Flight Museum, Atlanta GA

Europe & Africa


Program of the Year — Norwegian Air Shuttle > Norwegian Reward
Best Elite Program —Aeroflot > Aeroflot Bonus
Best Promotion — Norwegian Air Shuttle > Norwegian Reward
Best Customer Service — Norwegian Air Shuttle > Norwegian Reward
Best Redemption Ability — TAP Air Portugal > Miles&Go

210 AWARD — TAP Air Portugal > Miles&Go


Program of the Year — ALL > Accor Live Limitless
Best Elite Program — ALL > Accor Live Limitless 
Best Promotion — ALL > Accor Live Limitless 
Best Customer Service — ALL > Accor Live Limitless
Best Redemption Ability — ALL > Accor Live Limitless

210 AWARD — Choice Hotels > Choice Privileges

Credit Card

Best Affinity Credit Card — Norwegian Air Shuttle – Norwegian Reward > Norwegian Card from Bank Norwegian

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2014 Freddie Awards at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, WA

Middle East & Asia/Oceania


Program of the Year — Virgin Australia > Velocity
Best Elite Program — Virgin Australia > Velocity
Best Promotion — Virgin Australia > Velocity
Best Customer Service — Virgin Australia > Velocity
Best Redemption Ability — Virgin Australia > Velocity

210 AWARD — AirArabia > AirRewards


Program of the Year — ALL > Accor Live Limitless 
Best Elite Program — Marriott Hotels > Marriott Bonvoy
Best Promotion — Marriott Hotels > Marriott Bonvoy
Best Customer Service — ITC Hotels > Club ITC
Best Redemption Ability — ITC Hotels > Club ITC 

210 AWARD — Wyndham Hotels > Wyndham Rewards

Credit Card

Best Affinity Credit Card — American Express > Membership Rewards from American Express

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2019 Freddie Awards – American Airlines C.R. Smith Museum Fort Worth, TX

My Take

Rating frequent flyer and frequent guest programs is hard.  It depends on knowledge of multiple programs.  Determining  best customer service and best award redemption ability requires having experience redeeming rewards and dealing with representatives in multiple programs.  Furthermore, the level of customer service (and to an extent ease of award redemption) often varies depending on the level of elite status.  The higher the status, the better the customer service.

For airlines in the Americas, I agree with American Airlines AAdvantage as having the best elite program.  Delta Air Lines, however, has an excellent top tier Diamond status that offers free CLEAR membership and choice benefits including four space available upgrades to business class on international flights, credit vouchers, and airline lounge membership.  American Executive Platinum status works better for me because of the opportunity to earn up to 10 international upgrades per year and ability to book first class on American’s international partners.

The results for hotels in the Americas surprised me a bit.  Although I’ve spent more than 1,330 nights in Marriott and Starwood properties during my life and have been pleased with those stays, I would say Hyatt has a better program at least for those able to reach its highest level.  Data breach(es) discovered in 2018 and devaluations of benefits in the Starwood merger taint my evaluation of Marriott.

Freddie Awards are essentially popularity contests that reflect the level of satisfaction with loyalty programs voters belong to or have heard about.  Loyalty programs participate in the awards, but some don’t want to win.  A few years ago, the head of Delta’s SkyMiles program said it would be a failure if Delta won.  Its goal was not to be the best as judged by customers but to generate a high level of loyalty and revenue while costing the company as little as possible.  Delta thinks that happens with a finish in the middle of the pack.

What’s your take on the Freddie Awards?  Do you think it is better for loyalty programs to try to win a Freddie Award or be in the middle of the pack as far as member satisfaction?  Please comment below.  Thanks.