Getting Non-Compliant Hotels to Honor Program Benefits: the Latest Victory

Hotel loyalty programs face a unique challenge that airlines don’t. Airlines set the rules and provide the product directly. Hotels have to get properties which are often owned and even managed separately to comply, with benefits like upgrades delivered consistently by individual employees at a front desk perhaps thousands of miles away. They rely on individual hotels and even employees to comply.

As a result it can be like playing whack-a-mole with individual properties. And with hotels around the world, members may be experiencing things on the ground that programs don’t know about. Or if they see an issue raised in passing it may not resonate with all of the issues they’re facing.

So I find that it’s helpful to reach out to a program, let them know what members are experiencing, and explain how that may not match with the way the loyalty program is supposed to work.

I find that programs are pretty receptive — it can sometimes take awhile to work through issues and bring a hotel into compliance, especially where we’re dealing with disparate time zones and layers of bureaucracy: a loyalty program staffer may need to escalate things internally, then reach out to a regional coordinator, who talks to the hotel and this becomes a game of telephone with two cups and a string where the issue isn’t number one on anybody’s list.

With some persistence we can usually get issues fixed where there’s enough detail to fully understand an issue, lay it out, and explain how it doesn’t match a program’s rules. This isn’t unique to any one chain. For instance,

  • The incredible Al Maha Desert Resort started charging award guests about $1000 extra per night for meals and activities on points stays (paid stays include these). I brought it to the attention of the program, explained the issue, and Marriott award stays there are now inclusive again. Points guests are being treated the same as award guests.

  • Earlier in the year the Waldorf=Astoria on Maui wasn’t making standard award rooms available. I brought that to the attention of Hilton Honors and they fixed it. We had done the same thing with the Waldorf=Astoria Jerusalem.

  • When the Hyatt Regency Aruba was playing games with award inventory, so it was tough to book reward nights, we got that sorted. Same story with the Hyatt Regency San Francisco. The Andaz Papagayo in Costa Rica was blocking confirmed suite upgrades during peak times. we fixed that.

Sometimes, by the way, non-compliant hotels get ‘fixed’ and then revert to their evil ways once they think no one is watching again.

Hyatt Regency San Francisco

The old Parker Meridien in New York has rebranded as a Hyatt, which is fantastic. However reader Scott G. shared with me that the Hyatt twitter team was saying this property wasn’t yet participating in World of Hyatt so resort fees won’t be waived on award redemptions (or on paid stays for Globalists) and breakfast won’t be provided to Globalists.

Surely that couldn’t be right. And while I find the Hyatt twiter team to be really helpful overall, front line customer service often has bad information or just accepts as fact what they’re told by a hotel.

Parker New York

So I reached out to Hyatt about the property and quickly got an “appreciate your flagging” and was told they “connected with our GCC to resolve this issue, as there seems to have been some miscommunication around this hotel not participating in the program.”

Official word on Hyatt benefits at the property,

Parker New York is now part of the Hyatt brand, and should be fully participating in the World of Hyatt program in terms of earning and redeeming points, as well as elite benefits. The Destination fee the property charges will be waived on all redemption nights regardless of member tier and waived for eligible nights for Globalists and above.

Kudos to Hyatt for sorting this within a day. I replied to reader Scott G who then got right back that he was able to use a confirmed suite upgrade there successfully.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Gary
    Do you take requests same as musicians?
    If so can you crusade to fix the LONE hotel in Rovinj Croatia
    They DO NOT display award inventory for the entire year
    Maybe Marriott will listen to you…

  2. That is nice. But what to do when I try to book Marriott Kota Kinabalu on points from May 10 through May 15 only to get the following message at the booking page:
    “We’re sorry. This property is not taking redemption bookings at this time. You can either book a cash reservation or search for another property.”
    Is that allowed?

  3. Tks Gary
    Will do but basically all summer and longer that is the case ( or at least it was a few weeks ago)
    Will chexk and send all details

  4. It looks like the Marriott Ko’Olina Beach Club doesn’t honor elite benefits like late check out and upgrades either.

  5. Gary – planning my honeymoon to Japan and Conrad Tokyo has blocked standard room rewards over >1 month in August/September. Can you help with this? My call with a HHonors agent was helpful, but did not result in opening up availability.

  6. Koloa Landing Resort at Poipu is also playing games with its award availability. Trying to book a points stay of 5 nights or greater in October or November returns “We’re sorry. This property is not taking redemption bookings at this time. You can either book a cash reservation or search for another property.” Split that stay into concurrent stays of 2 or 3 nights each and you will find points availability.

  7. @Alex – well known that neither resorts nor convention center properties have to honor late check-out…was like this w/SPG for a decade before Marriott adopted the new benefit. Fight a different battle…

  8. Interesting to read about problems at the Marriott Kota Kinabalu. Just checked out yesterday after a three night points redemption. No problems at all redeeming at the property and it is a great downtown hotel with large Executive lounge and infinity pool.

  9. @Alex @UA-NYC
    To build on that, this property is a Marriott Vacation Club. They do not participate in these benefits. Cheers.

  10. Thanks for all you do. We are headed to Al Maha in a couple of weeks, and I was worried, but figured I’d just deny the credit card charge since I had my confirmation stating that room included meals and activities. Glad I don’t have to worry about it now.

  11. Keep an eye on Hyatt Regency Vancouver in high occupancy summer season. Standard rooms available but no award availability. World of Hyatt only fixed the situation after quoting the no black-out policy. World of Hyatt should be quicker to recognize the problem and act accordingly. Instead they await someone with lots of time and familiarity with the details of their policy to quote the exact provision. This is not a way to encourage loyalty.

  12. Can you work on the case of the missing pool and spa for Waldorf Jerusalem… they keep pushing dates back… i want a nice history of why its still being built and why a make shift gym is terrible..

  13. While we’re on this, I get really frustrated when Hilton’s only offer a continental breakfast for free and upcharge for hot items (bacon, sausage, eggs). As a diamond that’s ridiculous. Most recent example was the HIlton Gaslamp in San Diego.

  14. Eric, I had the same issue with no “standard” rooms being available at the Conrad Tokyo during Aug/Sep (and actually seemed to be the case through the whole calendar). It took several calls to Hilton Customer Relations, who eventually put me directly in touch with someone at the hotel who sorted it out.

  15. You will also find Marriott’s: “We’re sorry. This property is not taking redemption bookings at this time. You can either book a cash reservation or search for another property” at some high-profile properties in Thailand.

    You’ll get this at Le Meridien Chiang Mai pretty much any day April to December for an awards booking of 2 nights or more. Every room category is available, but no awards.

    The St. Regis Bangkok similarly is blocked out unless you book just 1 night. Even in low season when rates are very cheap. All room categories visible and bookable with Baht / Dollars.

    Phone agents just shrugged and said the hotels must be full, despite literally every room category being available on days I chose. My online request for help have been ignored for days.

    It would be great if Marriott held these hotels accountable. I understand that standard rooms run out at full hotels, but this is absurd.

  16. Tried to book for points The Bay Forest Odawara by Hilton Club in Japan. There are NEVER any rooms available unless you pay for them. As a Gold Member I tried to use points to book 2 nights rooms and have never been able to find a night. Can not even figure out how many points the hotel requires.

  17. This problem could be fixed if the hotel chains employed secret shoppers to police the hotels. Secret shoppers deliberately do funky things at hotels to see what the response is.

  18. Ron – thanks…I’ll dive in with HHonors Customer Care line and see if I can get it fixed.

  19. Hilton SF Union Square also doesn’t offer diamonds full breakfast, just continental.

    Also, too bad Marriott doesn’t copy no resort fee policy for award stays.

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