What Happens When Marriott Gives You A Suite Upgrade – Then Takes It Away?

Marriott offers Platinum elites and higher upgrades to suites if they’re available for the member’s full stay at the time of check-in. The biggest problem with Marriott’s “Suite Night Awards” is that you can almost never use them.

However the second biggest problem can be getting the hotel to actually honor the suite upgrade, even once it’s “confirmed” and that is even though not all available suites are given away as Suite Night Awards. Marriott projects demand for paid suites, and holds back standard suites to sell rather than assigning these upgrades as check-in approaches.

One 75 night Titanium elite member tells the story about confirming a suite at the J.W. Marriott in Grand Rapids Michigan. They were staying for their 35th wedding anniversary. When they arrived to check in, they were assigned a regular room – the hotel gave their suite to someone else instead.

We booked our stay months prior letting them know we were celebrating our 35th wedding anniversary and I am also a long standing Titanium Bonvoy Elite member. I submitted my request for a suite night upgrade as I had that certificate option and was granted this request on the 12th of July for a stay on the 17th.

When I arrived at the hotel, the front desk attendant told me that I was in a king room but when questioned about my confirmed reservation upgrade, he had little to say besides they were sold out and it could not be granted. After he went to the back and spoke with a room manager, he then told me that I should have received an email letting me know that my reservation had changed. All I heard were excuses and poor customer service.

The story was told in a review on Tripadvisor, and the Rooms Division Manager responded – more or less blowing off the concern:

I do apologize for this as this shouldn’t have affected your stay with us. I also had explained to you that an email was sent ahead of time to communicate this error to avoid any surprises before you checked in with us. I apologize if you weren’t able to see this ahead of time.

It seems as long as the hotel claims they told a customer in advance they were being downgraded, it’s ok to downgrade a customer. No compensation was offered.

This is a franchised property. It isn’t managed by Marriott, but by Amway’s hotel division (AHC Hospitality).

When a hotel finds themselves in an oversell situation that is their fault. When a customer’s suite night award is confirmed, they have a confirmed reservation for a suite. They should,

  1. Use all suites. Before downgrading anyone to a standard room they should offer upgrades to any available premium suites, like Ambassador or Presidential suites.

  2. Offer a free stay. If a customer is effectively walked from their room, and offered a downgraded room instead, they aren’t getting what they had confirmed. The stay should be free. That’s really the bare minimum and if it’s a work stay that was being reimbursed to them anyway it’s not enough. (An choice of a free stay or points for a future stay is another approach.)

By the way I wrote about this same hotel recently for giving Platinum members and above a credit to spend that doesn’t cover the cost of breakfast.

The guest should open a customer service complaint with Marriott, but it’s understandable why they might not. In recent experience Marriott agents give wrong information (coming up with reasons to defend hotels) and the company seems to have little inclination to enforce its standards.

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. Or sue the hotel in small claims court. Doesn’t Marriott have a cash compensation benefit in this situation?

  2. His fault for staying at a Marriott when they have proven they don’t care about loyalty and you have no recourse after the fact.

    Originally one of the reasons we stayed at chain hotels was the recourse, that’s gone, stay at a boutique hotel, loyalty is meaningless.

  3. I don’t base my cash hotel bookings based on loyalty. I look for the best value, location, and amenities regardless of brand. While I do have loyalty status, it is coincidental and any benefits I get I view as a bonus. Loyalty status is a foolish pursuit. If you want a suite, pay for it. If you want breakfast, pay for it. This is the hundredth story I’ve heard about loyalty status not being honored. Anyone who expects extra loyalty benefits is a fool at this point.

  4. I agree that it would be justifiably frustrating to not receive the suite as confirmed using a SNA.

    In my humble opinion, the reality is that in practice there are no absolute guarantees to access to hotel/airline inventory when using upgrades/awards/points/miles. If an inventory availability for your confirmed but non-full revenue room/seat becomes a problem, you will be among the first bumped … and whoever has more revenue applied to same product will get it. Someone with higher status can also have priority over last minute inventory issues. My philosophy is that if one truly wants to increase their odds of actually receiving a particular hotel suite or first/business class seat, that one needs to actually pay full rack rate.

    This does not excuse the hotels/airlines for not more proactively advising of such downgrades ASAP, though sometimes it is a last minute problem. It also does not forgive the hotels/airlines for not giving better compensation when such inventory issues force a non-voluntary downgrade.

    As always, thanks for the great article

  5. I had a man board my AC at the last minute with his family of 3. My FC cabin was full. He demanded I move 4 pax from FC to main cabin. We had just merged with AA. He screamed at me that he was a concierge. I didn’t know that this was a “class” of frequent flyer. I kindly told him I didn’t know what hotel he worked for but he needed to take the seats in YC. They sat in steerage. What an affront! It’s just gone downhill since. What a bozo. Have a nice flight!

  6. Well spotted Gary. Sound like another, in the long line of people, just got Bonvoyed

    (Just noise on the periphery)

  7. While this experience is distressing, I’m not really surprised. Marriott has become a company that views loyal customers in a passively hostile fashion. This isn’t even news, with two consecutive CEOs espousing the same sneering condescension towards engaged loyalty members. Expecting Marriott to force hotels to abide by promised terms is an exercise in futility in all but the most extreme situations.

  8. I am not sure why people continue to go there any longer. The rooms are not clean, the new COVID staff is rude, and the prices are ridiculous!

  9. Happens to me all the time! I apply an SNA, then get an email with a particular suite I got upgrade to, then I check the app after a couple hours only to find out the suite I got was downgradred to a lesser junior suite. And not get me started with the mess of breakfast. At full service properties with restaurants open they make you pay for breakfast cause ‘benefits’ are suspended (i know they are not) #bonvoyed

  10. @Julia: your post did appear, it’s a pretty funny story, but I’m not seeing the connection. Was this dude claiming to have an upgrade explicitly confirmed several days prior to departure, or was he just one of those entitled jackasses who makes everyone around him miserable?

  11. It happened to me at the Royal Hawaiian this past Valentine’s Day. I caused all hell to break loose at front desk. I understood it wasn’t the fault of the property since it’s truly a double standard between what’s honored and what’s actually in practice. I was “upgraded” to a premium corner room but was given full dinner as compensation. At this point do I ruin the purpose of Valentine’s Day or have Valentine’s dinner on the house? Lifetime titanium here with only one paid stay at Marriott this year but Hyatt now has 120 nights of my business and counting.

  12. This is clearly a willful breach of contract. This hotel needs to be sued for treble damages and held accountable for their actions. The longer these properties get away with fraud they will normalize their actions. If I was licensed in Michigan I would take the case.

  13. I’m a lifetime Titanium Elite and had a similar issue. We had a confirmed suite upgrade at the Marriott Walnut Creek for six nights at the beginning of August. Despite showing the confirmation email – which cleared at least a week before our arrival – the hotel had no interest in resolving it. The hotel was far from full, and there were suites advertised on the web site throughout our stay.

    To cap it all, the suite nights were deducted from my account, not returned and a web form complaint to Marriott during our stay elicited no response so I called and was assured that the return of the nights would be made to my account after a conversation with the hotel. Here we are in September and they are still not back.

    Perhaps I should transfer my close to half million points elsewhere and quit Marriott for good.

  14. The exact same issue has been raised on FT and The Marriott Lurker confirmed that once the suite upgrade is confirmed it cannot be unconfirmed. They advise members who experience this to contact them.

  15. As Google, Apple and Amazon well know, when you have built a monopoly juts like Marriott now has in many markets, then you can choose to treat your customers badly and not pay the price.

    But sooner or later we all catch on and then they end up just like Hertz.

  16. Marriott used to be the “go to” choice for business travelers. Now they are just another faceless brand, one among many. I avoid them now unless it is the last, least worst option.

  17. Similar situation happened to me at Le Merigot Santa Monica this year, just to clarify SNA upgrades are only for one night , but they may let you have the room the entire stay, up to hotel. They called me at 8 am to let me know they were not , and I would need to move to another room. Long story short, entire stay was comped after sending an email to the owner of the hotel. I don’t bother complaining at front desk , I email corporate, Marriott has been very good to me

  18. Marriott Customer Service, as in the Platinum/Titanium line will do NOTHING either. They used to call the hotel and MAKE them fix it. Now, I think that they’re offshored and powerless. When I had issues in Cancun, they said go to the desk. THAT was one of the issues. Hotel lost power, ONE person at desk, 20+ people in line.

    These days, social media tends to get more results, not always but sometimes. It’s nothing like it was when I worked for Marriott. We were empowered to take care of guests, we never actually said “no” and if we had to, we gave an alternative instead of saying no. Sometimes I wish I’d stayed on, but burnout was real.

  19. I requested a suite. Igor reward 8/5-8/8 in West Palm Beach, FL. At check In my status was still pending so I shared my screen on phone and said I wasn’t sure why I didn’t get a yes or no. The Ben by Autograph actually gave me a suite. Incredible room. And during my stay Marriott apologized they couldn’t grant my upgrade and returned my three nights. So I received the suite and kept my nights. I am Titanium Elite.

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