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Most of the major hotel chains have been reviewing the flexible cancellation policies they put in place to try to entice people to continue to make bookings during the current crisis. Chains like IHG and Radisson have effectively ended their fully flexible policies, Marriott has made its policy considerably less flexible while Hyatt’s policy remains as customer-friendly as ever. Now Hilton has updated its policy and it’s not good news.
Before today’s update, Hilton’s Covid-19 cancellation policy was very clear in saying that all bookings made by 30 September 2020 were eligible for free changes and cancellations up to 24 hours before check-in. Now, as of 1 October, this is what the Hilton website says:
- All our hotels offer fully flexible booking options with free changes and cancellations. Most hotels even give you flexibility to change or cancel up to 24 hours before your arrival day*. Also, any individual reservations made prior to October 1st, 2020 are eligible for free changes or cancellation up to 24-hours before your arrival day.
- *Some exclusions to the 24-hour window may apply. Please refer to the property’s Rate Details for applicable terms or exceptions, if any, when booking or changing reservations.
That isn’t particularly clear.
Although I have yet to find a Hilton property where the cheapest rate isn’t offering free cancellations (I’ve checked approximately 10 properties), the phrase “All our hotels offer fully flexible booking options with free changes and cancellations” shouldn’t give travelers much comfort. That phrase is simply stating a fact that was true before the current crisis – hotels have always offered fully flexible booking options. The key point is that alongside those options they also often offered considerably less-flexible options too (the cheaper rates). Are those set to return?
In case you think that I’m reading too much into Hilton’s latest update, take a look at this wording that I found away from Hilton’s main site (where most people will be looking) but still on a Hilton webpage:
As of September 30, 2020
If you cancel a rate which required an advance payment or deposit, we will do everything we can to process your refund as quickly as possible. Due to the influx of cancellations, it may take up to 14 days to complete your request.
*Some exclusions to the 24-hour window may apply. Please refer to the property’s Rate Details for applicable terms or exceptions, if any, when booking or changing reservations.
That’s a lot clearer. As of 1 October, there is no longer a requirement for Hilton properties to offer flexibility on all the rates they’re offering. Most of Hilton’s properties still appear to be offering free changes and cancellations on their cheaper rates but the updated policy opens the door for hotels to go back to offering less flexible options when the mood suits them.
Most (possibly all) Hilton properties still appear to be offering free changes and cancellations regardless of the rate that’s being booked, but the wording of the updated cancellation policy clearly allows individual properties to bring back less flexible rates when they feel the time is right. Anyone making a Hilton booking should make sure they read the cancellation terms for the rate they’ve chosen very carefully as they may not be as flexible as they were just a few days ago.