Hilton Makes Customer-Friendly Changes In The Face Of The Current Travel Crisis

a beach with buildings and a body of water

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Earlier today I wrote about IHG Rewards taking the decision to lower its requirements for earning elite status in 2020 in the face of the travel chaos that’s engulfing the world and now Hilton has stepped up with its own set of changes to help alleviate its guests’ concerns.

The Three Things Hilton Announced Today

Elite Status Targets

Update 25 March 2020: Hilton has announced a very generous status extension policy for all Hilton Honors elites – click to find out more.

Hilton has confirmed that it is reviewing the requirements for earning status in 2020 (for 2021) but it has also said that it is not yet in a position to announce what those changes will be.

Here are the current Hilton elite status qualification criteria:

  • Hilton Honors Silver Status: 4 stays, 10 nights or 25,000 Hilton Honors Base Points
  • Hilton Honors Gold Status: 20 stays, 40 nights or 75,000 Hilton Honors Base Points
  • Hilton Honors Diamond Status: 30 stays, 60 nights or 120,000 Hilton Honors Base Points

I think it’s safe to assume that Hilton will be reducing the thresholds at which Honors members will earn elite status but it will be interesting to see if it reduces the thresholds by a similar amount to IHG (between 25% and 30%).

Link to Hilton Honors status requirements and benefits

Points Expiration

Under normal circumstances, Hilton Honors points expire after 12 months of account inactivity but Hilton has today confirmed that it is pausing the expiration of all points scheduled to expire between now and May 31, 2020.

Hilton doesn’t appear to have announced what will happen to the points that would have expired between now and 31 May 2020 once 1 June comes around so, to be on the safe side, anyone finding themselves in this situation should do what they can to get some activity in their accounts as soon as they can…no matter how small.

Outside of staying at a Hilton property, there are a number of easy ways to generate some points activity in an Honors account:

There’s no real reason that you should ever allow a Hilton Honors balance to expire and now that Hilton is temporarily pausing expirations you have a bit more time to generate the required activity.

New Change/Cancellation Fee Waivers & Refunds

In the light of the European travel ban that’s coming into effect tomorrow, Hilton has added all 26 countries that are signed up to the Schengen Agreement to its list of destinations where change and cancellation fees are being waived and where refunds are being offered.

Here’s the updated wording from Hilton regarding its cancellation/change fee waivers:

  • Government Restrictions. In regions affected by government-issued travel restrictions, we will continue to waive change fees or offer full refunds. Please see below for the latest information on region specific travel waivers.
  • Existing Reservations. All reservations – even those described as non-cancellable (“Advanced Purchase”) – that are scheduled for arrival before April 30, 2020 can be changed or cancelled at no charge up to 24 hours before your scheduled arrival.
  • New Reservations. Any reservation you make – even those described as “non-cancellable” (“Advanced Purchase”) – that are booked between today and April 30, 2020 for any future arrival date, can be changed or cancelled at no charge up to 24 hours before your scheduled arrival.

Here’s Hilton’s list of region-specific travel waivers:

  • For guests traveling to, through or from China with stays from January 23–March 31, 2020.
  • For guests traveling to, through or from Italy with stays from February 24–April 30, 2020.
  • For guests traveling to, through or from South Korea with stays from February 24–March 31, 2020.
  • For guests traveling to, through or from Saudi Arabia with stays from February 27–March 31, 2020.
  • For guests traveling to, through or from Israel with stays from March 10–March 31, 2020.
  • For guests traveling between the US and the following European countries from March 13 – April 12, 2020: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Somewhat strangely, the information in the list of “region-specific travel waivers” appears at odds with Hilton’s updated policy.

The specific region waivers show that most fees are only being waived through 31 March (Italy is 30 April and the Schengen countries are 12 April) while the updated policy specifically says:

All reservations – even those described as non-cancellable (“Advanced Purchase”) – that are scheduled for arrival before April 30, 2020 can be changed or cancelled at no charge up to 24 hours before your scheduled arrival.

That wording appears to trump anything in the specific region waivers so that’s the wording I’d be inclined to believe….although I have emailed Hilton for clarification.

a building with flags on top of it

Bottom Line

It’s good to see Hilton being proactive about the issues all travelers are currently facing and looking at ways in which to make its customers’ lives a little easier (it makes the silence that’s coming out of Marriott even more deafening).

It will be interesting to see what the new temporary elite status qualification criteria will look like when they’re finally released and to see if Hilton reduces them by as much as IHG reduced its status thresholds (I suspect it will).

I’ll update this post as and when Hilton comes out with more information.

Featured image: Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos courtesy of Hilton


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