web Musings of The Global Traveller

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Hilton customer unfriendly shenanigans

Unfriendly #1 - no blackout dates

I know what you are thinking. How can Hilton HHonors recently announced "no blackout dates" be unfriendly? The announcement wording seems positive enough.

Unlike some other hotel programs:

  • HHonors program has no capacity controls. All standard rooms are available
    for rewards, not just a limited number each night.
  • HHonors does not require additional points to avoid blackout dates. Some
    hotel programs black out reward rooms and require their customers to redeem
    significantly more points to bypass those blackouts.
  • With HHonors, there are no exceptions. Every Hilton Family hotel worldwide
    offers No Blackout Dates. Some competitive programs exclude selected properties.
It seems someone left off the fine print. Exceptional demand dates are apparently being excluded. Not only are Hilton HHonors being deceptive about this clause, but there is no way to identify exceptional demand dates online. It is only when you call Hilton HHonors (for example their Diamond Desk) to make a request for an award that is not available online, that you might be told "sorry the hotel has reserved that date as exceptional demand". Boo.

There's some discussion about this on Flyer Talk.

Unfriendly #2 - fully flexible

Many travellers, myself included, have plans that often change. So we don't mind paying a little extra to have a flexible hotel booking. As long as the booking is cancelled before the deadline (which can be as late as 4pm on the date of booked arrival or as early as 48 hours beforehand), there is no charge.

Depending on the situations booking fully flexible might or might not make sense, and the Road Weary blog has a recent discussion about that.

I was stunned when attempting to make a recent booking at Hilton Frankfurt to find the hotel has made the rate called "Fully Flexible" non-refundable and non-changeable! Perhaps someone had mistranslated from German? But on checking with Hilton HHonors Diamond Desk it seems that no, the hotel policy is indeed to have NO flexible bookings. Wow. It certainly pays to read the rules instead of assuming the rate name bears any resemblence to the offering. Another Flyer Talker ran into the same deal at Hilton Munich City. I wonder how many other hotels pull this nonsense?

Unfriendly #3 - large deposit for "free" award stay

It gets worse. The same 2 German hotels (and there may well be others - these are the two I've identified so far) require a deposit for award stays. Again, this is hidden in the terms and could easily be missed by an unwary traveller as it is not expected.

Rules and Restrictions

  • This reservation requires a credit card deposit of a confidential rate per
    room and will be charged to your card by February 15, 2008.
  • If you cancel for any reason, attempt to modify this
    reservation, or do not arrive on your specified check-in date, your payment is
To summarise, at these hotels, 1 free stay =
charged an unknown amount of euros immediately
+ award points deducted immediately
+ no ability to change or refund the booking
+ refunded the deposit less charges at time of checking out (your deposit and points are forfeit if you don't show up)

The thought of approving a charge to my credit card for an indefinite amount did not appeal. I contacted Diamond Desk. They advised the charge is equal to the rack room rate - ie even higher than what I'd pay for a paid stay! Apparently Hilton HHonors do not feel empowered to override (or are hiding behind) this "hotel policy".

I'm hoping this nonsense is limited to just these 2 hotels, is soon stopped, and does not spread any further. Please let me know (by comment or email) if you are aware of any other hotels with such unfriendly practices. Also please post to the Flyer Talk discussion.


Where I live all three of these customer unfriendly practices are of dubious legality. #2 makes no sense. Surely there is some price point where refundable bookings are warranted? Granted, that might be higher than I'm prepared to pay but having nothing available that is flexible seems rather odd. #3 defies all logic. Only those who fail to read would willingly accept those terms for a free award stay.

It is amazing that until a few days ago I held Hilton HHonors in high regard. Can I please be allowed to amend my Freddies Awards votes?

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