What Does a Hotel Owe You When Your Room’s Not Ready at Check-in Time?

I was staying at my most frequent Hyatt hotel recently. I arrived at the property around 3:40 p.m. Their standard check-in time is 3:00 p.m., which is published on confirmation e-mails.

The front desk let me know that my assigned room wasn’t ready yet. The previous night’s guest had 4 p.m. late check-out and hadn’t checked out yet. I was told that they’d get housekeeping right on turning the room once it was available. (There weren’t any other available rooms in the category I’d booked, this wasn’t a case where I had an upgrade that wasn’t available.)

I was offered a bottle of water and luggage storage. I sat down and worked in the lobby. My room became available at 5 p.m.

That got me thinking, though. This hasn’t happened very often to me at all. In fact, it hasn’t happened in over a decade (I’m very lucky I guess). What sort of substantively apology is due to a guest when their room isn’t ready at check-in time? You’re paying for a room night, and not getting the full night.

The last time this happened to me was at a Starwood resort in the Caribbean. The desk clerk told me to go have (a very late) lunch and come back for my room later. I asked if he meant lunch on the house? He did not. He meant ‘go spend on F&B at our property because we inconvenienced you.’ A manager came over and upgraded me to an available room instead (an ocean view suite).

I reached out to Hyatt on Twitter and asked their policy.

  • They requested I take it to DM. Brands always want you to take negative issues or stories to direct message, to get it out of public view quickly.

  • I shared that I wasn’t looking for compensation, I just wanted to know the standard policy since there must be one and it hadn’t occurred to be before to ask.

  • They replied that the hotel would give me 2500 points.

  • I responded I didn’t really want the points, just the policy.

Here’s what I was told,

There is not a standard policy in place regarding that scenario. It is at the discretion of the manager on duty as it is the result of unforeseen circumstances impacting the individual property that prevented them from having a room ready at the posted check in time.

It’s not easy for hotels to manage when they have elites taking late check-out. What annoys me is when elites accept late check-out (Hyatts almost always proactively offer it), don’t use it, in fact don’t check out at all.

I wasn’t super inconvenienced and I actually asked them not to give me the 2500 points. I’m disappointed to learn, though, that there isn’t a standard policy.

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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Comments

  1. I’m surprised that you were not offered an available room that was better than the one you had reserved? There had to be other rooms that were available. So, why were you not upgraded?

  2. Have had this happen before but not often. Its not really cool. If I’m paying for a night and that night starts at X time I expect room access at that time. Why should my plans be delayed because you extended somebody else’s checkout?? I don’t mind waiting if you are going to give me an upgraded room but at the very least have the room I paid for available.

  3. Some sort of F&B credit or points, at a bare minimum.

    The CAA in Chicago gave me a $50 on-property credit when I arrived at 3:15pm and my room wasn’t ready…amazing service.

  4. I have to imagine that while not common, when occupancy is high, this isn’t an easy thing to get right, likely in the same vain as overbooking airplane seats. In reality, while people can check in as early as 3pm, how many people actually do? My checkin times are all over the map, and there’s no way for the hotel to accurately guess when *I* am going to check in. And when hotels do have to guarantee 4pm checkout when 3pm arrivals are possible, that’s just bound to cause problems every now and then.

    I’ll note that what really peaved me once on this issue is that I was arriving on an overnight flight to Europe during a peak travel period. The flight arrived at 7am or something like that. Because I don’t sleep well on planes, I decided it was best to book the night before and have my room ready on arrival. I think I informed the hotel that I expected to check in at 9am, and they acknowledged that. However, when I showed up as advertised, the room wasn’t ready. I was a bit peeved — I did, after all, pay for the night before.

    As to how the hotel resolved that… I got a free breakfast while the room was getting serviced, so I only had to wait 30 minutes or so. But still.

  5. I take it that anyone who feels its not right that a room that they booked isnt available , Never makes a late checkout where the room they occupy wont be ready for the next potential guest at 3PM , which probably means checking out of the room by Noon, 1Pm the very latest

    That said usually the hotel will either comp a drink or food at their restaurant, offer an upgrade room from what was booked or already uped to or throw some pts at you

  6. I had this happen to me recently at a JW when traveling with my family over Thanksgiving and couldn’t get into the room until nearly 6pm. I was Marriott Titanium at the time, but cleared Ambassador later in the year. The front desk said they could offer me points, but wanted to do something more. So they comp’d us a dinner for four at their restaurant. By far the nicest thing they could have done.

  7. @Dan, that would Never fly with me, I wouldnt accept anything besides getting into the room ASAP as well as a refund (if already pd) or not being charged for the room.

    Seems then hotel thought they could double up by selling the same room twice

  8. We are often travelling as a family during school breaks and high weeks in general and have had this happen to us several times over the past few years at Marriott properties. Always as Titanium 75 night level members and can’t recall ever being offered anything at all other than “if you give us your cell phone number we will text you as soon as the room is ready.” Which usually translates to “we will completely forget to text you and you need to instead come back to the front desk every 20 minutes with an increasingly annoyed attitude before we call housekeeping and tell them to hurry.”

  9. I almost always ask for late checkout if my travel plans possibly allow it but will make it a point to let the front desk know that I’m vacating a room if it isn’t close to the time I was allotted. I just feel like it’s the right thing to do.

  10. I don’t understand the hotel. You were there at 3:40. Was every other room in your price class occupied? If not, why didn’t they give you a similar room they had reserved for another person who hadn’t arrived yet? This would be especially appropriate if yours was a single night stay.

  11. Had a 2-night stay at the Marriott (Dolphin) a few years ago, and the room wasn’t ready for check-in. Told us to come back 30 minutes later. Still wasn’t available; it took 3 more hours! We were given an “open tab” dinner for F&B at any of their restaurants in-house, as well as breakfast the following morning. Very impressed!

  12. It can be annoying but how often do you check in before the regular check in time? In my case fairly often.

  13. Am I the only guest who is often told I cannot get late checkout because of the hotel’s future occupants’ needs?

  14. @Gary – I can’t believe you got points from that location for your room being N/A at check in.

    Question: Was this a resort? Because a LOT of my “N/A’s” are usually at resorts.

    Because this happens to me more at resorts that I frequent, I’m hesitant to complain about waiting because I *usually*’get a late check out from them (even though resorts don’t have to honor late check outs). So I tend to earn the title of “Most Understanding Hyatt Globalist” at check in despite me possibly contributing to these delays.

    Funny how that works out.

  15. If there was a policy, you might get less on balance. With no policy, then you can negotiate something with the manager on duty. For instance, JetBlue has a “policy” on delay compensation for controllable circumstances, but you may be getting less than you otherwise might be able to negotiate because they can go back to the policy.

    In your case, I would have asked for full dinner and drinks and or 10,000 points. I think 10,000 points is a pretty standard Hyatt compensation amount. Your 2,500 points does not seem that generous.

    I am also curious and assume the hotel was completely sold out.

    This has only happened to me also once or twice if that in decades of travel.

    Also its common for lounge access to be provided during the waiting period.

  16. Stayed 1 night at a posh hotel in Beverly Hills a year or 2 ago shortly after their grand opening.

    $1,000 Package deal, dinner at Michelin chef restaurant, suite, massages for 2, etc. Anniversary or birthday…can’t recall.

    Showed up at 3 pm, and room was not ready. Hotel completely booked and person in our room just check out. They asked me to wait and said housekeeping on it ASAP.
    At 4 pm, room was not ready. Manger on duty knocked 25% off price of package.
    At 5 pm, room was not ready. Same manager knocked another 25% off the price of the package.
    (quietly hoping they’d take another 2 hours to clean the room…then the whole stay, including dinner, massges, etc might be free!)
    Room was ready at 5:15 pm.
    Went to dinner, and restaurant manager came over and said that the hotel had waived limits on our dinner (instead of 2 appetizer/2 entree/2 dessert..we could order anything and everything we wanted).
    Showed up at spa and the 2×50 minute massages were changed to 2×80 minute massages.
    They called the next am and said since we checked in so late…they were waving check out time for us and we can leave anytime we wanted. I joking asked if we could check out at 11:59 pm and 59 seconds…and they said yes (we didn’t…checked out around 4 pm).

    BEST STAY EVER!

  17. Delays are always couched in statements like “ the upgraded room/suite isn’t available yet”, indicating that if you want the cheap standard you booked, it’s ready now….avoiding any ‘liability’, at least in my experience.

  18. Adding the type of Hyatt property involved would be a useful data point to this story – especially given the increase in property types. If it was indeed a Hyatt Place property, they may not have had an “upgrade” or “better” room to move to. They could also have been sold out and waiting on prior “elite” members to check out. Too much missing information here.

  19. There’s no standard policy for the biggest hotel chains because – at least for now – there can’t be.

    Their hotels aren’t owned by them and are rarely managed by them. Hotel brand owners are faced with a relatively tiny number of owners and management companies, almost all of which own or manage hotels from competing brands.

    It overstates things only a little to say owners and managers, not brand owners hold all the cards. They don’t want to be held to a standard for delayed checking, especially since rooms are vacated late when they play the late check out for elite members of brand owners’ loyalty programs.

  20. Depends on hotel. I arrived before check in time at Park Hyatt Paris and they still offered us free round of drinks (70 euro champagne ) Ben though it was before check in

  21. There is no standard policy because every customer situation is different.
    At the least, though, the following 2 options should be offered
    1. Food and beverage comped while you wait
    2. Check in to a room of a lower category and shift when your new room comes available

  22. It is an inconvenience for sure when you arrive at 3pm and your room isn’t ready. But on the other hand I have arrived at many hotels early, sometimes in the morning and been checked in at no additional cost.

  23. Shangri-La Kuala Lumpur was not able to get me into my club floor room until 6pm. We had arrived at 4pm and told them not to worry about it as we could just wait in the lounge. Well, they kept out glasses filled with bubbly from 4PM until the room was ready. They upgraded our rooms (2 couples) and there was a bottle of champagne on ice with an apologetic letter from the GM.
    Very classy 🙂

  24. I imagine the Hyatt hotel in question has at least 200+ rooms, and only a small percentage of the guests would be elites. And a similarly small per centage would have booked for more multiple nights. The rest would have been told to check out before 11am and the new guests would begin trickling in after the scheduled check-in time. Unless you were upgraded to a quite rare type of room, surely the fact they couldn’t accomodate you is a sign of sloppy management. And if your are truly a valued elite, they would have proactively offered you the choice of temporarily accessing a lower spec. room until your room is available. At least that is how hotels have handled the situation for me.

  25. A balanced article, and going looking for points NOT being your modus operandi is to be applauded.

    I’ve been to hotels and rooms have not been ready. Have been offered drinks, or, most of the time, to have my bags delivered to the room whilst I go off venturing.

    BUT, I’ve also arrived at hotels as early as 8am (sydney hilton) and 9.30 (Hilton Dubai Creek) and have been allowed to check in, so I think this is all about balance.

    None of us runs hotels, so I feel it’s somewhat arrogant to believe that rooms will be ready at 3pm on the dot. There may have been a conference, a wedding, a high number of elites (unlikely for Hyatt, but, given you can almost get status for Hilton on the back of a breakfast cereals box), full occupancy, bad weather, or any number of operation reasons….

    Going out there DEMANDING compensation just makes you look a prick. Working with the hotel staff to find a solution will make everyone’s day better….

  26. This is happening more and more to me. I would say 10% of my check-ins. Mostly at Hyatt and Bonvoy properties, And yes, they always blame late check out benefits to elites. Adding, “as an elite I am sure you understand as you take the late check out as well.”

    Actually, I rarely use late check outs. I personally feel that hotels should compensate guests with room discounts just as they want to charge you for early check-ins at times. With check in times already pushed from the old 3PM to the new 4PM there is just no excuse for it. I personally feel it has to do with insufficient staffing of housekeeping and improper room management.

  27. Recently my room at the LA Downtown Intercontinental was an hour late. I received no explanation and no offer of compensation. I asked for them to waive the valet charge, which they did, but I was very surprised that there was nothing proactively offered by the hotel.

  28. WOW! this topic sure got a lot of feedback. Clearly, most/all of us have had some similar experience/s. What i have found works best is to be understanding of the situation, be polite and stay cool. Ask first for what if any compensation the property (i.e. front desk staff) will offer, e.g. 2500 pts. Then ask for manager on duty to negotiate up from there — i have obtained some F&B, 25% off room rate, all the way to full comp of $ or pts. It is always easier for managers to give you points vs $. Of course, you can always say you are exhausted, need some sleep, and lie down on a lobby couch until your room is ready. Yes, that can work too!

  29. At the Fairmont Mayakoba we arrived early (like noon and check-in was 2p?) and they gave us free lunch at their restaurant and got the room ready. To be fair we booked an expensive suite but still, we arrived early. I think any hotel that doesn’t have your room ready at 3p should gift you lunch or dinner or something to keep you occupied pleasantly, upgrade you to an available room, or offer you substantial compensation (not a whole night free, but maybe a half night free). I say this because, as you noted, you pay for a full night of room, and should get it. They know ahead of time there will be a late check out (I’ve never heard a hotel not requiring it the night before or at least the morning of, so yeah say No if you know you will need that room, seriously hotel management 101) so could figure out a workaround. And they nickel and dime you for everything at almost every chain ever (resort fees, room service fees that are atrocious, late check out fees, etc) so shouldn’t you get something decent when they don’t live up to their terms of service? Today’s service industry gives me the blues.

    On an extreme side note- how come we don’t get credit for stays we buy via CSR/Citi travel etc? I mean, yes, the rate may be a tiny bit discounted but I am still choosing what hotel to stay at, and thereby proving my loyalty so how is it that isn’t rewarded? They aren’t losing money on that room and frankly most of the time the rates are the same as published on their site, but I want to use some CSR or Citi points or whatever to help pay for it- they still get the money, so no loss to them, but they have this ridiculous blanket policy of never giving credit. Okay, rant over.

  30. I was forced late checkin to PH Melbourne some years ago (I think this was before I was diamond.) Nothing offered other than a rather-expensive roaming call to my cell phone to confirm the room was available an hour after the advertised checkin time.

  31. I had this happen a few years ago at the JW Marriott Grande Lakes in Orlando… I got there around 4:30pm, and my room wasn’t ready yet. I was given a card to take to the restaurant, and had a late lunch on the hotel (which, incidentally ended up charged onto my room and then removed via credit — so I also got points for it!). I also got an apology from the GM of the hotel personally (he came over to the restaurant to get me when my room was ready)..

    This was also in the days when Platinum was really the highest status, and I’d had it for 4-5 years straight.

  32. The Ramada (Wyndham) Atlanta didn’t have rooms ready over the weekend for hours and hours. I’m talking 10:00pm. The people behind me on line waiting to check in were told No Rooms were left. But we had a reservation they said. The hotel was Not walking those people either. They were peeved to say the least. This property is independently owned and operated. There’s talk of a re-brand to another chain. I stay here every year since 2015. This was the first time they had issues.

    I complained, and it fell on deaf ears. I did a private message to Ramada on Facebook. They responded that they’d get back to me.

  33. @Claire – I’m with you. I’ve been told I couldn’t have as late a check out as I’d liked because the room was booked for that night and the hotel was sold out.

    To be fair – it was a Hyatt House 2-bedroom suite. I think they only had a couple of them in the property.

  34. That happened to me at the Munich Airport Marriott hotel in November 2019.
    Arrived 7pm and got drink vouchers. Room was not ready till about 8pm.
    We ate at the restaurant and as a Marriott Titanium i certainly expected that dinner charges would be waived at check-out. Nope! I am still in contact with the hotel and now Marriott on twitter and Marriott guest experience to get this solved. (just to mention we had a very long trip behind us and a 5 year old) The outcome will show Marriott’e true values and they need to update their policy and make it public just like Marriott’s “walk away policy”

  35. Surely the check in and check out time form part of the contract and are what you are paying for. If a hotel lets me check in early that is kind of them and good for my repeat business but I would also be quite happy to leave my luggage and do something else. If a hotel make me check in late then I will expect some form of compensation or a reduction in the charge.

    I use on of the well known hotel booking agents and I am a good customer. If a hotel gives me trouble I ring them the booking agent from the lobby. The booking agent puts me on hold and rings the hotel. The look on the receptionist face when they get the call is fun. It is always resolved satisfactorily. On occasion the booking agent has given a fifty percent discount for my inconvenience and I assume the hotel pays for that.

  36. It is true that it depends on the manager on duty. I used to work for one of luxury hotels – if we know there is a late check-in, we apologize and offer a spa treatment on the house even before the guest complains about it. Usually it does the trick, but I’ve been yelled at before for not getting the room ready because of the 4pm check-out.

    For you all, I would recommend asking them for something so tide you over: an upgrade to the next room category, a comped lunch, a spa treatment. Just don’t go over the top, because they will say no. And don’t go berserk either, because they will kick you out if you’re rude.

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