April 24, 2008 was quite a night for our frequent flyer program, Rapid Rewards. After a year of ups and downs in the airline industry, we were thrilled to win three awards and place in the top five in four other categories at the 20th Annual Freddie Awards.
For those of you who don't know what a Freddie is, let me explain. As David Grossman points out in his article in USA Today, the Freddie's are essentially the Oscar's for frequent traveler programs. Each year, InsideFlyer magazine invites members of all frequent traveler programs to vote for the programs they feel deliver the best combination of benefits, awards, and returns on loyalty from the traveler's point of view. The winners are determined by the overall merits of each program and were chosen this year after travelers cast more than 625,000 ballots. (Twenty years ago, only 864 ballots were cast...that's a 72,000% increase!)
We were thrilled to take home first place honors for Best Award Redemption, Best Award, and Best Member Communications. Best Award Redemption is the Award that honors the Program that makes redeeming an Award the most "flyer friendly" (Award seat availability, fees involved in booking an Award - of which we have none, ease of the process, etc.), and it was our tenth consecutive year to win this honor! No one else has won this trophy since it was created in 1998! It was also our very first year to win Best Member Communications, the Award that honors the Program that communicates most effectively with its Members through various channels. And as if those weren't enough, we also placed in the top five in four other categories, including: Program of the Year, Best Web Site for southwest.com, Best Customer Service, and Best Elite Level.
It was a great night, and occasions like these always give you a chance to reflect back on the events of the past year.
Last year we made some significant changes to Rapid Rewards--adding the Rapid Rewards' A-List and a second redemption option, the Freedom Award. Despite some criticism, these Freddies seem to reaffirm that our Members think these are positive changes, and they responded by showing support with their votes.
It also was a year of tireless effort by the folks on my Team and others who worked diligently to bring our Members the things they have come to expect - relevant communications; relevant partner offers; and frequent, fast Awards.
The event also gave me a chance to think about how much we owe to all of our frontline Employees who interact with our Members on a daily basis. They keep the promises we Marketing folks make, and the truth of the matter is...they're the secret to our loyalty program's success.
So, as I lugged my suitcase through the airport--which was considerably heavier because of the trophies we were bringing home (and which gave the TSA fits as it went through security!)--I found myself looking forward to next year's event. I wonder what's in store? No doubt we'll continue to look for ways to improve our Program, keeping it relevant and fresh for our Members in the months and years to come.