Randy Petersen 2023 Freddie Awards
Photograph ©2023 by Brian Cohen.

Have Awards Influenced Your Purchase Decisions?

Are awards even relevant in the travel industry these days?

Thursday, April 25, 2024 came and went without any fanfare. That date may not have much meaning or significance to you; but it brought a question to mind: have awards influenced your purchase decisions pertaining to travel?

Have Awards Influenced Your Purchase Decisions?

2023 Freddie Awards
Photograph ©2023 by Brian Cohen.

Almost every year, the last Thursday in April was when the annual Freddie Awards ceremony would usually occur. However, Thursday, April 25, 2024 quietly arrived and left with no fanfare. No one asked what happened to the Freddie Awards in 2024. No topic on FlyerTalk has been dedicated to the Freddie Awards since 2020.

After his conspicuous absence of several years, Randy Petersen hosted the last Freddie Awards on Thursday, April 27, 2023, at which he officially announced his retirement from hosting the event. Not one time during the evening was anything announced that the Freddie Awards would be discontinued; and no notice as to the fate of the future of the Freddie Awards can be found at its official Internet web site.

Perhaps the interrupted tradition may resume and continue one day — or perhaps not. A precedent of sorts does exist: after its 21st year in 2009, Randy decided to retire the Freddie Awards — but members of FlyerTalk worked to keep the tradition going by introducing the Frequent Traveler Awards in 2010 and 2011, which Randy Petersen attended as a guest. The Freddie Awards returned in 2012 by popular demand.

A Brief History of the Freddie Awards

2023 Freddie Awards
Photograph ©2023 by Brian Cohen.

A brief history of the Freddie Awards — which was originally posted in this article titled Randy Petersen: The Epitome of Being Thankful here at The Gate With Brian Cohen — follows:

Always thinking of how to further grow his small business and bring more publicity to InsideFlyer, Randy decided to launch the Freddie Awards in 1988 to recognize the most outstanding frequent travel loyalty programs in the world — but he did not want the ranking of frequent travel loyalty programs to be determined by only one person; so he asked readers of InsideFlyer and frequent travelers to cast their ballots. Thousands of people responded to the call for votes — giving frequent fliers a voice to honor the efforts of what was then a growing industry.

The Freddie Awards was named after the late Freddie Laker, who founded Laker Airways in 1966 and was a good friend of Randy. Laker himself said about the awards, “Seeing my name on the Freddie Awards gives me a great thrill. This whole business excites me so much, I can’t believe Randy thought to name them after me.”

As its ebullient master of ceremonies, Randy created an annual event to reveal the winners of different categories of the Freddie Awards each year, channeling his inner Elton John by wearing different outfits each year — whether those outfits included a top hat or cowboy boots. I attended several annual Freddie Awards ceremonies and witnessed Randy perform in his zone at home on stage, entertaining the growing audience of frequent travelers and industry insiders — elevating the ceremony to become an event which anyone with any relation to miles, points and elite status must attend. The only year which I can recall some employees of at least one airline not attending the Freddie Awards was in Atlanta — and that was because the official venue of the Freddie Awards in 2015 was the Delta Flight Museum at the world headquarters of Delta Air Lines. Ironically — despite hosting the event — Delta Air Lines did not win any Freddie Awards that year.

Randy Petersen 2023 Freddie Awards
Photograph ©2023 by Brian Cohen.

Back in those days, the Freddie Awards was significantly influential — the pinnacle event of the world of frequent travel membership programs — to the point where airlines, lodging companies, and rental car companies all spent copious amounts of money not only advertising to vote for them; but they also flooded members of loyalty programs with e-mail campaigns to vote for them as well.

Select representatives of the companies would then travel from the far flung reaches of almost every corner of the globe to attend the Freddie Awards ceremony and banquet, dressed in their very best suits and dresses as they sat at their tables, dining on their meals as they enthusiastically awaited the announcements of the winners of the coveted trophies.

Whenever a winner was announced at the ceremony, a loud roar of excitement and applause would emanate from at least one of the tables — followed by the representatives of the winners eagerly accepting the honored trophy. The winners would then proudly exclaim in advertising and e-mail campaigns that they won at the Freddie Awards.

Over the years, other companies caught on and sponsored their own award ceremonies — some of them in person; and others virtually. Additionally, lists of the “10 best” in airlines, lodging companies, rental car companies, cruise lines — and virtually anything else that has anything even remotely to do with travel — seemingly proliferated everywhere.

Even awards in room service may exist. Of course, “there’s an award for everything.”

Final Boarding Call

Even during the peak of the heyday of the Freddie Awards, I have to honestly say that my decisions to purchase anything with regard to travel were not at all influenced by the Freddie Awards — nor any other awards ceremony or “top 10 list”, for that matter. Just because Marriott Rewards may have swept the top prizes during some of those years did not mean that I automatically started booking reservations at hotel and resort properties within the brand portfolio of Marriott International, Incorporated.

Admittedly, my favorite part of the Freddie Awards was watching Randy Petersen host them. I am thankful that I was invited to past events and was able to attend some of them.

Although Randy Petersen will tell you how proud he is of the work that was put into ensuring that the Freddie Awards reflected what was important to members of frequent travel programs as accurately as possible over the years, the truth of the matter these days is that anyone could start an awards event — especially virtually…

…but really — what purpose would that serve?

One notable example is FlyerTalk — which is the largest community bulletin board in the world related to frequent travel membership programs — whose last FlyerTalk Awards was in 2022. Although the ballots of votes were collected, no winners were ever announced. After eleven years, the FlyerTalk Awards — which were virtual and never occurred in person — simply quietly evaporated into the ether. Other awards “ceremonies” have come and gone as well. Are awards even relevant in the travel industry anymore?

That leads me to ask you the question initially stated in the title of this article: have awards influenced your purchase decisions pertaining to travel? If so, how have they influenced you…

…and if not, what really is the point?!?

All photographs ©2023 by Brian Cohen.

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