Southwest Airlines, Marriott Hotels top 2018 Freddie Awards

Southwest Airlines' frequent flier program and Marriott Hotels' loyalty were both named Loyalty Programs of the Year in the 2018 Freddie Awards.

The winners were announced at a ceremony at the Museum of Flight located at Seattle's Boeing Field (BFI) in Seattle the evening of April 26.

Southwest's (NYSE:LUV) Rapid Rewards programs was accorded the honor of being named Airline Program of the Year by an airline serving the Americas region while the Marriott (NYSE:MAR) Rewards program was named best frequent guest program in the same region by frequent travelers who cast ballots in the annual competition

As in 2017, travelers also voted Southwest Airlines' Rapid Rewards credit card Best Loyalty Credit Card.

Gary Leff presented many of this year's Freddie Awards
Recipients of the 28th annual Freddie Awards were decided upon by more than four million travelers worldwide who voted for their favorite airline and hotel loyalty programs from among 223 different programs spanning five separate categories including Program of the Year, Best Promotion, Best Redemption Ability, Best Customer Service and Best Elite Level.

A sixth category, Best Loyalty Credit Card, covers both airlines and hotels.

In the AMERICAS category, the categories were each dominated by a single player. The winners were:

Airline Category

Program of the Year — Southwest Airlines – Rapid Rewards 
Best Elite LevelAmerican Airlines – AAdvantage 
Best Customer Service — Southwest Airlines – Rapid Rewards 
Best Redemption Ability — Southwest Airlines – Rapid Rewards 
Best Promotion — Southwest Airlines Companion Pass Offer

Hotel Category

Program of the Year — Marriott Hotels – Marriott Rewards
Best Elite Level — Marriott Hotels – Marriott Rewards
Best Customer ServiceMarriott Hotels – Marriott Rewards
Best Redemption Ability — Marriott Hotels – Marriott Rewards
Best PromotionMGM Resorts Mlife Rewards Holiday Gift Shoppe

Best Loyalty Credit Card - Southwest Airlines – Rapid Rewards Premier Card

The Freddie Awards also presented “best of” awards for the Europe/Africa region, and the Middle East and Asia/Oceana region.


Airline Category

Program of the Year -
Norwegian Air - Norwegian Reward
Best Elite Program - Aeroflot Bonus
Best Customer Service - Aeroflot Bonus
Best Redemption Ability - Aeroflot Bonus
Best Promotion - Norwegian Reward - Christmas Advent Calendar

Hotel Category

Program of the Year - Le Club Accor Hotels
Best Elite Program - Marriott Rewards
Best Customer Service - Le Club Accor Hotels
Best Redemption Ability - Le Club Accor Hotels
Best Promotion - Le Club Accor Hotels - Activation Booster Credit Card

Best Loyalty Credit Card  - American Express - Membership Rewards


Airline Category

Program of the Year - Virgin Australia - Velocity Frequent Flyer
Best Elite Program - Virgin Australia - Velocity Frequent Flyer
Best Customer Service - Virgin Australia - Velocity Frequent Flyer
Best Redemption Ability - Virgin Australia - Velocity Frequent Flyer
Best Promotion - Emirates Skywards - 50 percent off first class upgrades

Hotel Category

Program of the Year - IHG Rewards Club
Best Elite Program - Starwood Preferred Guest
Best Customer Service - Le Club Accor Hotels
Best Redemption Ability - Le Club Accor Hotels
Best Promotion - IHG Rewards Club - Accelerate

Best Loyalty Credit Card  - ADCB Etihad Guest Above Visa Card

New for 2018 was the "210" category, which recognized the "Strongest programs off the radar of voters," according to organizers.
Industry representatives broke bread together at
Boeing's Museum of Flight

Programs that received more than two percent but less than 10 percent of the vote were accorded the new honor. They were MGM Resorts Mlife Program, and LifeMiles Airlines Awards program.

LifeMiles is the unified and improved frequent flyer program of Columbia's Avianca and Equador's AeroGal.

Introduced in 1988 by InsideFlyer magazine’s Randy Petersen, the “Freddies” are named in honor of Sir Freddie Laker (1922-2006) and have grown in stature and importance to become the most prestigious member-generated awards in the travel loyalty industry, according to the Freddie Awards’ website. The goal of the Freddie Awards is to give voice to the frequent flier and to honor the efforts of an industry that counts more than 300 million members worldwide.

Known for his pioneering marketing ideas within the travel industry, Laker founded Britain’s first all-jet air carrier, Laker Airways Ltd., in 1966, which eventually became the largest individually and privately owned airline in the world. Laker was one of the first airline owners to adopt the "no-frills" airline business model that has since proven to be very successful worldwide with companies such as Southwest Airlines, Ryanair, easyJet, AirAsia, WestJet and Virgin Australia.

He also founded the “SKYTRAIN” service, which revolutionized the airline industry by offering the first no-reservation, low-cost air service.

Visit my main page at for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.

Photos by Carl Dombek
Click on photo to view larger image