Last month I wrote about a reader who made a booking at the Holiday Inn LaGuardia Airport to stay during the U.S. Open. This was booked on the IHG website – they booked direct – but when they arrived at the hotel, it was… no longer open as a hotel. The reservation was still active in their IHG One Rewards account.
The hotel had been in foreclosure. It was rebranded. But nothing indicated it was entirely closed. And I wrote that I had never seen an instance where a hotel just closed, reservations remained active, and nobody said anything.
Yet it’s happened again! A pregnant woman showed up at her hotel reserved at Booking.com to find it was no longer a hotel – it had been converted to a homeless shelter. And the online travel agency’s customer service had no hoots to give.
I booked a room at the Queens County Inn and Suites in Long Island City via Booking.com, not far from LaGuardia, where I would catch a 6 a.m. flight Sunday morning. But when I arrived at the hotel around 11:30 p.m., I found it had been converted into a homeless shelter.
Alone and nearly five months pregnant, I felt very unsafe in the neighborhood and finally got an Uber so that I could wait at the airport as I contacted Booking.com. The representative did not seem to appreciate the gravity of the situation, and told me she needed to email the hotel and give them 30 minutes to respond before she could help. Over an hour later, the representative, who told me no supervisors were available, said I would receive an email with new lodging arrangements. I never did
The property’s website is still live, and it’s still listed across numerous online booking sites, however it no longer shows inventory for future reservations. The woman may have been lucky the hotel no longer honored reservations, and that she spent the night outside LaGuardia airport waiting for it to open, since reviews of the property had been “worse than all but one hotel in Manhattan” (“dirty,” “creepy” and “funky” with “more bedbug reports in the 2010s than any other hotel in the city”).
Booking.com says they’re not responsible when a hotel doesn’t update them that they’ve closed, even though guest reviews on the Booking.com website already reported the property was no longer open.
“We don’t own the properties,” he said. “We have some options to guide them, but at the end all the information has to be provided by them.”
…Mr. Herran Muro acknowledged that the system is imperfect, and “creates some pain points” in cases like yours, especially because of the 30-minute wait time the company needs to confirm the hotel cannot accept your reservation.
According to the site, the guest “should have been passed along to a ‘second-line’ representative who might have then elevated it to a supervisor.” This is insane and underscores what’s wrong with booking hotels via an online travel agency website.
- The site takes zero responsibility that the hotel they sell you even exists
- If a hotel closes, they do not tell you
- And when you call for help, the best case scenario is after a wait on hold you convince the first agent to transfer you to another agent who “might” transfer you to a supervisor
The New York Times ‘Tripped Up’ column says you should do your research about hotels – comparing options and prices – using an online travel agency site like Expedia or Booking.com, but then actually make the reservation directly with the hotel chain to avoid this from happening. Except the Holiday Inn LaGuardia Airport shows even that may not help you! It may be a good idea to phone the front desk of your hotel directly before arrival.