[Clarification – Awards Don’t Trump Status] How Upgrade Priority Works For Hilton Stays

Hilton has introduced advance upgrades for elites. Seventy two hours prior to check-in upgrades are automatically processed, and elites receive a notification and are able to select a room from the new upgraded room category through the Hilton mobile app.

The major limitation here is that these are upgrades to ‘enhanced rooms’ and hotels still have zero obligation to upgrade elites to available standard suites, the way Marriott requires (but often doesn’t enforce). It doesn’t hold a candle to Hyatt which requires upgrades at check-in to include standard suites for Globalist members, and allows confirming of upgrades to standard suites at time of booking as well.

Loyalty Lobby has uncovered interesting information about Hilton’s new automated upgrades, the priority order in which guests get upgrades.

  1. Guests on redemption stays costing over 100,000 points, regardless of status

  2. Lifetime Diamonds

  3. Diamonds

  4. Golds

There’s no information about prioritization within tiers, but two interesting items emerge.

First, award stays are prioritized over paid stays. They want guests to have great experiences using points. And they believe in this so much that they’ll upgrade a general member on an award stay over a Diamond paying cash.

Second, lifetime Diamond isn’t just Diamond for Life, it’s effectively its own top tier above Diamond since lifetime Diamond members get upgrade priority over Diamonds.

This new upgrade benefit applies to stays at Waldorf Astoria; LXR; Conrad; Canopy; Hilton; Curio; DoubleTree; Signia and Tapestry brands.

These upgrades do not apply at Embassy Suites; Hilton Garden Inn; Hampton by Hilton; Tru; Homewood Suites; Home2 Suites; or timeshare properties.

Update: Hilton clarifies that award stay doesn’t actually trump elite status (so it seems an elite member on an award stay would trump a paid stay within the same elite tier, and that general members on award stays do not actually get upgrades).

Hilton Honors elite members are eligible to receive a complimentary upgrade based on a mix of criteria, including their membership status, room inventory at the hotel and length of stay, to name a few. These factors help us award upgrades to make elite members’ stays more meaningful. Gold, Diamond and Lifetime Diamond members are eligible to receive a guaranteed room upgrade 72 hours prior to their arrival based on hotel availability, and member status/tier is the first criteria considered.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. This is what irks me about Marriott’s upgrades or even Delta’s new global upgrade certificate policy. It’s opaque. Why not be transparent and disclose the order or any tiebreakers?

    Marriott’s biggest flaw in upgrades isn’t lack of enforcement. It’s reality in 2021 vs. terms and conditions/program rules.

    In 2021, you can check-in about 48 hours before physical arrive using the Marriott mobile app. Depending on the property, you’ve actually checked in and can go right to a room without stopping by the front desk. At other properties, the online check-in is smoke and mirrors. You still have to go through some or all formalities at the front desk.

    The terms and conditions say an eligible elite is entitled to the best available room or suite at the time of check-in, however, many properties interpret this to me physical arrive — not check-in on the app.

    Thus, you get a situation in which a platinum arrives right at 3 or 4 p.m. and gets the suite because the rooms director or guest relations manager didn’t pre-block upgrades. Meanwhile, an ambassador shows up at 5 p.m. and gets nothing.

    Supposedly, Marriott is sending an email every day to general managers at certain full-service brands with a list of customers to upgrade. At least that’s what the GM at a franchisee-operated Renaissance told me. I haven’t, however, heard this from anyone else nor has it been confirmed.

  2. And of course no hotel is required to upgrade members of any status if the room can be sold. That is why it is common for me (Hilton Diamond and lifetime Marriott Titanium) to get upgraded on one night stays but much more infrequently on multi night stays because the hotel isn’t required to give up a room they may sell in the future

  3. Completely odd to me that Hilton would prioritize award bookings regardless of status. There must be some return in this they have discovered as instincts would assume it would be lower down the food chain. Perhaps they have found these bookings tend towards higher property spends if upgraded. I say this as I highly doubt they are doing this as you say, “to assure these guests have great experiences.” These brands are long detached from the goodness of their hearts, lol. There has to be a money angle behind this.

  4. I think @Stuart is right on the money (pin intended!) with his rationale.

    AGree with the other commenter that it would be nice if everyone was simply transparent about priorities and tie-breakers, etc.

  5. I think most will agree that transparency would be nice. I am MAR Titanium and HILT Diamond. I think Marriotts issue is they don’t pre-block upgraded rooms for higher elites prior to check in whereas it looks like Hilton will at least with this new system. It’s quite normal for my colleagues to get a suite with Platinum status over me as a Titanium simply because they checked in earlier or sometimes I checked in too early!

  6. Given that upgrades are only for Gold and up, do they give upgrades to anyone staying who is spending more than 100k points per night? If so, then the statement that general members paying points over a Diamond paying cash makes sense (and would be something they would likely advertise, right?). Otherwise, it should say a Gold paying on points would be over a Diamond on points.

    My point is, is it true that a general member who somehow has enough points to pay 100k points over several nights (I highly doubt most people would stay for one night at that price) seems highly unlikely (which is why they’re a general member)?

  7. Does anyone know if free annual nights count toward upgrade priority? As an example, we’re redeeming two certificates on the same account for a 95,000 point/night hotel (190,000 points value total). Does this mean we’d be first in line for upgrades?

  8. Like a newspaper reduced to having a “wrap-around” advertisement covering the front page, you seem to have sold a wrap-around for your website? It’s hideous

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