One of the major improvements in elite benefits that Starwood rolled out at the beginning of 2012 was the introduction of “Suite Night Awards” for Platinum members who stay 50 nights in a year or more.
Ten nights are awarded in suites, which are confirmable up to 5 days in advance of arrival.
Lucky notes that instead of expiring at the end of the year, any unused suite upgrades will not expire until April 30th — giving Platinum members an extra four months to redeem them.
Loyalty Lobby says that instead of extending their validity, Starwood:
should do the right thing and scrap these crappy SNA’s altogether or make the suites confirmable at the time of making the reservation. In their current form the SNA’s are useless.
I think that misunderstands the point and the value of Starwood’s Suite Night Awards. They are not at all useless, they just do not do what Loyalty Lobby wants them to do (but to a large approximation, they weren’t intended to).
Here are his complaints:
– Can only be confirmed 5 days in advance
– Properties are not required to make all select standard suites available for SNA’s (they must for space available Platinum upgrades at the time of checking in)
– Doesn’t create any more upgrade inventory compared to space available upgrades
– SPG’s system for applying SNA’s is buggy
– Some properties may be hesitant to upgrade unless you have used a SNA
– Allow upgrading max 20% of your nights
Hyatt allows its Diamond members to confirm a suite at booking (4) times per year on any paid night that is eligible for elite credit. Those confirmed suite upgrades are valid on stays of up to 7 nights apiece. So a Hyatt Diamond might confirm at booking any number of nights, from 4 to 28, using these certificates. Award nights are not eligible. And all Hyatt Diamonds get the certs (even those on a Diamond status ‘challenge’ or who qualify on stays and not just nights).
Hyatt’s suite upgrade program — largely because they can be confirmed any time there’s availability after booking — is the absolute gold standard in loyalty. But no other major program offers confirmed at booking suites, so Starwood’s failure to do so hardly makes their offerings ‘useless’… it merely makes them ‘not as good as Hyatt’.
I’m also not sure how ‘only upgrading 20% of the time’ using certificates is a complaint, since there’s no benchmark about what would be reasonable or desirable. These upgrades are valid on award nights (Hyatt’s aren’t) and can be applied one night at a time.
That the program “Doesn’t create any more upgrade inventory compared to space available upgrades” is actually the point. To Loyalty Lobby they might as well just do upgrades at check-in, since the same number of upgrades might be offered (although this is not necessarily true).
The problem here is the marketing of suite night awards, or at least the perception, that these are “confirmed upgrades.”
Really they should be understood as an effort to do two things:
- Offer upgrade priority so a member gets an upgrade when they want it most. It’s not about more upgrades, or even really earlier upgrades, it’s about increasing the likelihood that a given member gets the upgrade when it matters to them. A qualifying Platinum member can slap down a suite night upgrade to say that they are on a given stay where the upgrade is important, and they are prioritized over members who could take or leave the upgrade relatively speaking. Suite Night Awards are an upgrade rationing tool so that the upgrade go where they are most highly valued. On a given business stay a member may not care about the suite, but traveling with their family it could be very important. Upgrades on availability at check-in treats all members equally, Suite Night Awards are a more efficient way to assign upgrades.
- Better enforce upgrade rules by taking the process out of the hands of hotels. Individual properties still manage their inventory, and that’s one reason the process isn’t perfect, but instead of depending on the vagaries of hotel check-in clerks or recalcitrant properties the Suite Night Award program centralizes upgrade processing — Starwood’s computers do it based on live inventory. While there remains work to be done even after nearly two years of this program, this remains potentially revolutionary since one of the biggest failure points in benefit delivery comes from individual hotels and hotel employees who don’t deliver on program promises.
The key here is not to think of this program as a competitor to Hyatt’s confirmed suites. Instead, it’s a way to prioritize upgrades and to reduce (though not eliminate) upgrade failures through hotel discretion. And towards those ends the program is an improvement over Starwood’s previous offers, and is certainly better than the upgrade programs of Marriott, Hilton, or Priority Club.