Jeff The Wanderer Goes to The Freddie Awards
This past weekend’s events were too much to cover in just a single post. In fact, they were too much for just a weekend. By the time I got done adding events on, I ended up being in New Jersey from Thursday through Sunday. Because of all the excitement and everything that went on, I have decided to do a post for each event individually. I was originally planing to try to post each night I was there, recounting the activities of that day, but I soon found out that there were far more important things to do than sit in my hotel room writing posts.
Instead, I spent my time meeting new people and chatting about miles, points, and travel. Of course there was also plenty of time spent eating good food, learning travel tips and tricks, and attending official events. Finally, by the time I made it back to my room each night, I was in bed fairly quickly, trying to rest up for the next day. Throughout the course of it all, I only managed to type up two paragraphs of a post. I did successfully tweet through all of the events to keep my twitter followers up to date and I think I updated Facebook once or twice, but here at the blog, it was pretty quiet. I guess this is just another example of why you should follow me on Twitter and Facebook (hint, hint).
The good news is that now I am home. I have had a good night’s rest and some time to process everything I experienced at my first group of official frequent traveler events. For the short version, I can say that it was a fantastic experience and if at all possible, you should absolutely attend one of these events. For the long version, you’ll have to read the next few posts. For now, let’s get started with the Freddie Awards.
I guess I ended my last post about this weekend with packing up my truck and hitting the road. Well, as you can probably guess, I made it safe and sound to New Jersey. The drive was fairly uneventful until I got into Newark. I was then reminded what it was like sitting in traffic on Rt. 21 at 5′o’clock on a weekday. After it took me about 35 minutes to go 3.5 miles, I finally arrived at the Renaissance and got checked in. I spent a few minutes in my room changing into a suit and making myself look somewhat respectable and then I headed down for the pre-awards cocktail hour.
I was a little bit nervous at this point because although I was aware of several people who would be there, I had never met any of them in person. This was also my first event in the frequent traveler world, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. It soon became clear that I had nothing to worry about. The room was full of friendly faces, from airline and hotel representatives to other bloggers and the lucky few frequent travelers who were invited to attend.
Within a few minutes, I had met several bloggers and a few others that I recognized from Twitter, MilePoint, or elsewhere online. I soon ran into Kathy (@katruns26point2), who I had been tweeting back and forth with since we both found out we would be attending the event. Kathy writes a blog based on travel and running and you can read her posts over at Will Run For Miles. As we were chatting in the hall, we were approached by none other than Randy Petersen. He welcomed us to the event and took us over to get our picture taken at the digital photo booth that they had set up. I had expected to say hi to Randy at some point during the weekend, but I had no idea that this would be one of many conversations I would have with the man regarded by many as the premier expert in travel loyalty programs. He really couldn’t be a nicer, more down to earth guy, and he was genuinely excited that each and every one of us was there at the event.
As time went on, more and more people arrived for the Awards and it got very loud in the reception area. You almost had to yell for the person next to you to hear what you were saying. Luckily there were plenty of drinks flowing to help soothe our throats. Eventually I managed to find Brian (The Points Guy). You may remember that winning a seat from him was actually the only thing that allowed me to attend the Freddie Awards. He had told us that he would be easy to find because he would be the tallest person in the room. Although that was ultimately true, there were some other very tall men there at the beginning and Brian was not there yet when I arrived. There were plenty of others to talk to though and when he did come in, he was very easy to spot. I spent the last few minutes of the cocktail hour chatting with Brian and his crew of people, including the other winners of seats at his table.
Before long, and after a failed attempt to show a video by Google, we were ushered in to find our seats for dinner. We were at Table 23, which was towards the back of the room, but centered just right of the stage. When I say back of the room, that does not mean we were far away. The room was much wider that it was deep, so we had quite a good view of the speakers and ceremonies. Dinner was served buffet style out in the corridors and there was everything from pasta to soft-shelled crab sliders. It really was quite a spread.
While in line for dinner, I was next to the head of Delta’s Elite Loyalty programs. Although I don’t really fly Delta, I do have quite a few Skymiles and it was an interesting conversation. What I thought was great was that he (in the upper level of corporate executives) and I (a lowly travel blogger) had a ton to talk about and even ended up spending some time discussing the sights of Atlanta.
Back at the TPG (The Points Guy) table was were it really started to get fun. We had a great group of seat mates and might have been known as the rowdy table by the end of the night. It probably didn’t help that we finished our table’s bottles of wine before the Awards even started. Don’t worry though, we were able to borrow a few from other tables and even got the waitstaff to bring a couple more. Wine aside, all together we had great conversation, a generous helping of sarcasm and wit, and plenty of travel tales to share. This was definitely a whole group that I would love to vacation with. We would have an outstanding time.
Once dinner was out of the way, the night’s official festivities began. After a few words from Randy Petersen, the podium was turned over to the host for the evening, 2-time Emmy Award winner Robert Wuhl. You may remember him from his title role in HBO’s Arli$$. He had a few minutes worth of jokes (some of which were hilarious, some not so much) and then got started with the awards. There were a few other presenters as the night went on, including Randy, Gary Leff, and Freddie Laker, Jr.
I suppose this would be a good time to tell you about Sir Freddie Laker, then man for whom these awards are named. As a huge contributor to the airline industry, Freddie Laker was knighted in 1977 for all he had done. From starting his own “no frills” airline to assisting with many others, he definitely knew the ins and outs of the airline business. During his opening remarks, Randy told us all how he had chosen to name the Freddie awards after Sir Freddie Laker without even meeting or consulting him. It wasn’t until the Awards started to build up a following a few years later that he decided it might be a good idea to seek out Freddie and mention it to him.
As the night went on and awards were given out, there were some expected winners (Starwood Preferred Guest) and some real surprises (Baltic Miles). I won’t type out all of the winners, since The Points Guy and his team did such a good job on reporting them. Instead, I will send you over there to see if your favorites took home a coveted Freddie. Once the awards were all handed out and dessert had been served, it was time for the formal part of the evening to come to a close. There were a few minutes for some last minute chats with nearby program executives. Starwood had the table next to us and after they won so many awards, I just couldn’t resist a photo op.
On the way out, everyone got a swag bag containing lots of fun items. From airplane lollipops from Google to neck pillows from American Express, there was something for everyone. In fact, since some of the items are duplicates of things I already have, you might just see an upcoming giveaway for a few of my swag items here on the blog.
After a quick trip up to my room to drop off the swag bag and to lose my jacket and tie, I went back down to the after party. In addition to having the whole hotel bar to ourselves, they had also set up an open bar out in the large hallway reception area. Over the next several hours, I met many new people, had the chance to extend earlier conversations, and had a really great time. I am glad that I had this opportunity to talk with Brian especially, since he ended up having to cut his weekend short after his presentation Saturday morning. Around 1:45 in the morning, as the last few people were trickling out, we finally decided it was time for bed.
Overall, I would say that having the chance to attend the Freddie awards was an amazing experience. Although it was a little bit overwhelming at first, fellow bloggers and industry executives alike were warm and friendly and everyone was welcomed into new conversations. The award ceremony itself was very professionally done and far more than I expected. I had a wonderful time and it was a great start to my weekend full of miles and points. All I can do now is hope that I am invited back again next year. Maybe, if things go well and I play my cards right, I will even be able to bring one of you.
I would like to send out a huge thanks to Brian and the whole team at The Points Guy for inviting me to join them at The Freddie Awards. Also, I can’t forget to thank Randy, Tommy, Gary, and everyone else who put so much time and energy into planning and carrying out such a great event. Finally, I want to say thanks to everyone who took a minute to say hello or stopped for a short chat with me. With this being my first of many frequent traveler events to come, it was comforting to see how genuinely friendly and welcoming everyone is. Until the Freddie Awards next year, happy travels to all of you.