The Last Hotel Internet Domino Falls. Hilton Will Offer Free WiFi, But There Are Catches…

IHG Rewards came out with internet for everyone a year ago (though of course most of their hotels already gave it to everyone as a brand standard, only the upper-tier ones did not and in certain regions).

And Marriott announced this two months ago, with a restriction of having to book through Marriott channels.

Starwood launched announced free internet in December and started offering it a month ago. They require bookings to be made through a Starwood channel to be eligible.

Days later Hyatt announced free internet — no loyalty program membership or booking channel requirement whatsoever.

That left Hilton dangling out there as the only major US chain still charging the bulk of its guests for internet. That couldn’t be sustainable, and indeed they emailed this morning to say they’re going to offer free internet starting in August:

  • To Blue and Silver HHonors members (Gold and Diamond already get free internet). In other words, program membership is necessary, this will help them build their member file.
  • Who book through a Hilton channel or through corporate travel partners. This helps them reign in distribution costs, creating a reason for customers not tied to their points program to book direct instead of their paying commissions to Expedia, Orbitz, etc.

Diamond members will get unthrottled internet speeds starting in the second quarter. (Hyatt and Starwood give that all elites. Net net this is a minus for Hilton Golds who will have more guests competing for their same level of throttled bandwidth.)

Free internet will not apply at hotels with a resort fee. Apparently they don’t want to interfere with those hotels’ narrative for what the resort fee buys you. If members of the Hilton HHonors program who booked through a Hilton channel were entitled to free internet at these properties, there’s be a run of guests protesting that they shouldn’t have to pay the resort charges since they were already entitled to a key ‘benefit’ of these bogus charges.

I’ve asked for clarification on which corporate bookings that will be eligible for free internet.

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. Marriott Golds and Platinums also get complimentary access to premium speed internet, so Hilton isn’t being entirely competitive here with their Golds.

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