Airlines

How Are You Voting In The Freddies? Keri’s Picks

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The deadline to vote in the Freddie Awards is coming up on March 31! I always struggle with my choices — choosing the programs and offers that benefited me the most, versus rewarding the companies that actually had the best offers even if they weren’t relevant to me. (I have that hope that winning a Freddie is meaningful enough that hotels and airlines will start adjusting their behavior to win votes?)

So here are my picks:

Best Airline Promotion – Americas: So none of my preferred airlines offered anything spectacular last year, so I’m going with the promotions I wish they’d done.

  1. American Airlines’ Thank You Promotion is the top pick — I could have made status alot easier if my airlines had offered double elite qualifying miles for the last two months of the year!
  2. JetBlue gets second for their JetBlue Gives promo which offered 6 TrueBlue points for every dollar donated to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.
  3. Third is Air Canada for offering bonus miles for flying them any/all of 30+ airports.

Best Hotel Promotion – Americas: To me there’s one big winner and then the rest are hard. Also struggling not to weigh recent devaluations in my assessment.

  1. Club Carlson’s Stay One Get One / Big Night Giveaway is hands down the big winner for this year. Both Jeanne and I saved some mega $$ earning our 50,000 points towards nice hotels using cheap stays in the local area.
  2. Best Western Rewards Be a Travel Hero promo which offered stay 3 times, get a free night. If I stayed at Best Western’s this would have been a great chance to net some free nights at their nicer properties.
  3. Pretty apathetic on my third choice — I guess I pick Starwood’s Relax & Redeem which, had I been planning to stay at one of their top properties the 50% award stay discount would have been helpful.
Best Airline Redemption Ability – Americas: So this is one of the areas I’m least informed about, as I typically pay attention to the programs when I’m getting ready to book a specific trip and accumulate/transfer points accordingly.
  1. Taking the path of least resistance, though controversial, on this one. As a United 1K I’ve enjoyed getting to book and cancel award tickets with no fee, not to mention releasing Singapore Air First Class award availability was pretty sweet. And they allow for one-way award tickets and don’t charge fuel surcharges.
  2. Little out of my element on the program but friends have raved about using their Southwest Rapid Rewards accounts.
  3. US Airways doesn’t offer one-way awards and their customer service is hard to navigate, but they have good north Asia redemptions, the miles are easy to get, and they skip the fuel surcharges.

Best Hotel Redemption Ability – Americas: 

  1. For my needs, Starwood wins hands down. Their points are hard to acquire through stays but once you have the points they have lots of properties at good values, as cheap as 2,000. It’s rare I can’t find an award night or cash & points for the dates and areas I want.
  2. The few times I needed a stay, the Club Carlson properties had availability, although not always at the best value. I’ve heard the international properties can offer big values.
  3. Priority Club rewards is my third pick. Their cash & points option was particularly useful for my stays in Alaska and Chile.

Best Airline Customer Service – Americas: 

  • I have to bail on this section. I didn’t have many travel woes in 2012 (2013 is off to a roaring start), so the few that I did encounter were handled decently, but nothing to write home about. I will give a shout out to US Airways Twitter. They are fast and friendly in responding to issues.

Best Hotel Customer Service – Americas:

  1. Hyatt wins hands down. The attitude of employees at the hotels and online is fantastic. When I stay at a Hyatt, for the most part I do feel like they value me, or are at least trying to!
  2. Starwood is not far behind. There seems to be a little more inconsistency among properties, but I had some of my best experiences last year at their properties. As problems have come up I’ve also found their customer service pretty responsive.
  3. Since my hotel stays were pretty focused on the two chains above I don’t have many other data points, but I’ll give a shout out to Kimpton InTouch for the fun environment they cultivate at their hotels and the general good experiences I remember from my stays.

Best Airline Elite Program – Americas: I’m basing these votes as much on friend’s experiences as my own.

  1. First vote goes for Delta. Their miles may be worth it, but I’ve never met a Delta Elite who didn’t rave about their upgrades, their internet, their comfortable seats and great customers service. <sigh>
  2. Second goes for American Airlines. Elite upgrades seem to clear pretty often and the free snack and drink option for those who don’t goes a long way in making flights more comfortable.
  3. Coming in a weak third is United. The changes to the program have left boarding a mess and it stinks you can’t get economy plus seats assigned in advance as a silver, but that said I still enjoy my 1K benefits.

Best Hotel Elite Program – Americas:

  1. Hyatt is the clear winner in my mind. Great perks even as a platinum, but as a Diamond they can’t be beat. Upgrades to suites when available, the welcome amenity, the recognition of status across properties. Losing my status was second in devastation only to losing Avis Chairman.
  2. Starwood is next up. I never saw a big difference in how I was treated as a Gold, but changes to the program last year have made it much more valuable. The welcome amenities have improved, and quite frankly, the fact award stays count towards status is worth a lot. Platinum status is great and much easier to get now.
  3. Hilton has been much maligned of late for their devaluation of points, but I find Gold status worthwhile. Free breakfast, free internet, and usually a slightly nicer room make it a solid, easily attainable choice for most travelers. And when I was a Diamond, their treatment rivaled, perhaps surpassed Starwood.

Best Loyalty Credit Card – Americas: I thought this was going to be hard, but since several of my favorites aren’t options (like the Club Carlson Business Rewards Visa which offers one free night on every 2+ night award stay and the Citicard Hilton Reserve Visa), it was a bit easier.

  1. The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express is my all-time favorite. It has a low annual fee, they offer 5 stays towards elite status and the points are a great value for award night redemptions, as well as transferring with a 20% bonus into numerous airlines.
  2. The Chase Sapphire could win on looks alone. Who doesn’t love pulling out that attractive piece of metal 🙂 But it lives up to the hype with a 7% annual bonus on all points earned, 2x points on dining and travel (including parking garages), and the ability to transfer the points into various airlines and hotels making your points far more flexible.
  3. The US Airways Mastercard is a solid deal. The $99 companion ticket and club passes each year almost make up for the annual fee. I like getting the 5,000 mile deduction on award tickets, and they’re pretty good about running promos to boost your earning potential.

Airline Program of the Year – Americas: I’m probably doing a disservice to some stellar airline programs that I’ve never tried, but on the other hand, if they’re so stellar, surely I’d have tried them…;-)

  1. American Airlines gets first place based on award redemptions and the praise I’ve heard from elites who fly them.
  2. US Airways comes in second because elites frequently get upgraded and their miles are valuable for the destinations I want to go (we won’t talk about the lack of economy plus and bad boarding).
  3. I don’t feel strongly enough about any other program. And I’m not happy with United for various things so I’m going to make them pay by not voting for them in this section…

Hotel Program of the Year – Americas: Despite the lack of good promos, and in some cases redemption options, my picks are closely tied to best elite program (no surprise there).

  1. Hyatt — they treat elites beautifully. Need I say more?
  2. Starwood — lots of locations at affordable award redemptions and decent treatment of elites, plus easy to earn elite status.
  3. I will ignore the recent changes in the Hilton program since that’s (2013) and choose them, since Priority Club’s elite status continues to slide.

How are you voting? Am I dead wrong or totally right? And should we start a pool for predictions? Leave your leanings in the comment field or a link if you’ve posted it somewhere else.

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Heels First is the travels and tribulations of two twenty-something frequent fliers jumping into the world of travel. Join Keri and Jeanne as they tackle mileage runs, elite status, and of course–the perfect travel accessories.

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Living for the little (and big things) that make life so fun, especially mistake deals and crazy last minute weekend mileage runs across the world. www.twitter.com/klatravel

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