Joe Brancatelli has a piece today on Starwood’s new 24-hour check-in benefit for Platinum members who stay 75 nights a year or more.
The new benefits went into effect last week. Here’s how I described it:
[T]he ability to check in any time, 24 hours a day, though this benefit is subject to availability. The request must be made at least 48 hours in advance in order to find out whether it can be confirmed. The request will be possible online or by phone. Checking time will dictate checkout time on a 24 hour clock, so if you check in at 5am then you must technically check out at 5am as well though hotels will often be more lenient than that, and as long as you check in after 9am you’ll still be eligible for late (4pm) checkout except at resorts where that’s subject to availability anyway. But this isn’t just early check in, if you confirm a late check in like 8pm you should be able to have 8pm checkout.
I see this as a huge benefit, though not one that eligible members will take advantage every time. Check in at 9am after an early arrival in Europe to take a shower, and you won’t have to check out early. It’s also great for those 6am arrivals in Hong Kong. And with midnight-ish arrivals and departures in India, this would have saved me a full night’s room rate last Thanksgiving.
What’s also nice is that checking in at 7pm should allow 7pm checkout, and even at a resort where late checkout is otherwise ”subject to availability’ (which in practice means ‘not available’ or at least the hotel isn’t obliged to provide it, it’s always funny when a hotel offers a Platinum member 4pm checkout for a fee, I always rather think that if it’s available at a fee then it’s available and thus should be provided free, but what do I know).
The drawback is that the benefit isn’t guaranteed, it has to be requested at least 48 hours out, it likely will be available most of the time but a hotel that’s sold out won’t have to kick a guest out early to accommodate, and won’t have to take a room out of service the day before in order to make this happen either.
Previously the only program offering early check-in as part of its terms and conditions that I’m aware of is Intercontinental, for Royal Ambassador members who get 8am guaranteed (with the stipulation that an upgraded room may not be ready in which case the member will be put in a standard room temporarily, I experienced this in Manila a couple of years ago arriving at noon when I had been upgraded to their Presidential suite). Intercontinental’s benefit, unlike Starwood’s, is actually guaranteed.
As Joe points out, other chains have tried this in the past and some hotels offer similar marketed benefits but nothing on the scale of what Starwood is doing and nothing quite as formalized. I’ve been told by Hyatt execs that hotels who have rooms available are supposed to accommodate Diamond members with early check-in, but this isn’t a formal benefit and a hotel is not out of compliance with program requirements if they don’t honor it, so it’s ultimately at the discretion of the property. I much prefer clearly defined benefits, otherwise it’s either risky or something that takes planning and effort in advance to secure (although SPG’s benefit takes at least an online request in advance).
I’d love to see this benefit spread. I might only use it 2-3 times a year. But when I do use it, I would really really value it.