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A recurring theme among many travelers with hotel elite status is that they frequently fail to score upgrades at properties that are far from full and where an upgrade should be offered per the terms of the loyalty program to which they belong. There is no easy fix to this and there’s no guaranteed method of ‘forcing’ a property to offer an upgrade, but there is something you can do to give yourself a better chance when you’re checking in.
Know Your Rights
There’s very little point in requesting an upgrade if you don’t really know what you’re entitled to in the first place, so make sure you know the rules of the loyalty program the hotel you’re checking into belongs to and make sure you know what your elite status entitles you to.
Most of the major hotel loyalty programs will state that upgrades are based on room availability (which should be obvious) but different status levels will be entitled to different levels of upgrade. Knowing exactly what level of upgrade you’re entitled to is key if you want to have any chance of persuading a hotel that you should have a better room than you have been assigned.
In the Marriott Bonvoy program these are the upgrades open to the various status tiers:
Silver Status – Not entitled to upgrades.
Gold Status – Entitled to a “complimentary enhanced room upgrade” where “enhanced” rooms may include rooms with desirable views, rooms on high floors, corner rooms, rooms with special amenities, rooms on Executive Floors. Suite upgrades are excluded for Gold Elite Members.
Platinum Status + higher statuses – Platinum Elite Members and above receive a complimentary upgrade to the best available room subject to availability for the entire length of stay at the time of check-in. Complimentary upgrades include suites, rooms with desirable views, rooms on high floors, corner rooms, rooms with special amenities or rooms on Executive Floors.
There are exceptions to the above rules (e.g some brands don’t offer upgrades at all and some brands don’t offer suite upgrades to Platinum elites) so a Bonvoy member should be aware of these.
Know The Hotel You’re Checking Into
Just as you can’t really complain about not being upgraded at check-in if you don’t know what sort of upgrade you’re entitled to, you’ll also find it pretty hard to complain about the room assigned to you if you don’t know what rooms the property offers.
Sticking with the Marriott Bonvoy example…
The rules set down by Marriott state that “Platinum Elite Members and above receive a complimentary upgrade to the best available room subject to availability” but what’s not clearly stated is that Bonvoy (like a number of other programs) doesn’t really force properties to offer guests the “best available room” – that’s why you won’t hear too many stories of people being upgraded into Presidential suites…but this doesn’t really matter.
This isn’t a post about scoring amazing 2,000 sq ft suites, it’s just a post suggesting a way to help you get a good upgrade.
Before you arrive at check-in make sure you know what rooms the hotel offers – some hotel websites list all their rooms in order of size/importance/desirability and for some you’ll need to check dates far into the future to see what rooms are on sale (the price of each room should give a good indicator of where it sits in the hotel’s list of rooms).
If you’re entitled to an upgrade to a suite make sure you know the name the hotel assigns to their entry-level suite (for most people that’s the most likely suite upgrade they’ll be able to score) as you’ll need to know this on the day of check-in.
At The Hotel
Whether you have checked-in via an app (and so already know what type of room you’ve been allocated) or whether you have yet to check-in, there’s something that you need to do before you approach the front desk – check what rooms the hotel is selling at that very moment for the dates of your stay.
This is where knowing what upgrade you’re entitled to and what rooms the hotel offers will come into play.
If you’re entitled to a suite upgrade check to see if the hotel is still selling its entry-level suites. If it’s not (or if you’re not entitled to a suite upgrade) check what the next best available room is.
Once you’re armed with this information it’s time to approach the front desk.
If you already know what room you have been allocated now is the time to ask (very politely) if the desk agent can upgrade you or, if you have yet to be checked-in, ask if you have been upgraded as the desk agent processes your details.
Assuming you haven’t been upgraded or the upgrade you have been given is a non-upgrade (you have the room you originally booked just on a higher floor), now is the time to request (still very politely) the best room that you’re entitled to (and that you know the hotel is still selling for the dates of your stay).
If you’ve done your homework you now have the hotel at a disadvantage. You know what you’re entitled to and you know what rooms the hotel is still selling so there should be no reason for the upgrade to be declined. This doesn’t mean that it won’t be declined, but it does mean that you’ll have to be given an explanation.
If you’re given the brush off don’t accept it. Politely ask why the hotel believes that it doesn’t have to upgrade you to the room you have requested and, if the forthcoming explanation doesn’t fit with the rules of the loyalty program, politely point this out.
A key element here is to recognize when you’re requesting something that the person you’re dealing with doesn’t have the power to give you. Some desk agents can upgrade whomever they like to whatever room they like but others will need a supervisor or duty manager to give the ok – spend as little time as possible discussing things with an entry-level desk agent and politely ask to speak to a supervisor as soon as you feel like you’re not getting anywhere.
Note: At no point should you be rude, loud or obnoxious and at no point should you overplay the status that you hold. Limit any mentions of status to discussions surrounding what that status is entitled to and avoid using it as a way to try to make yourself sound important – you’ll fail, it won’t get you anywhere, and you’ll just look like a colossal ass.
Things can go one of three ways at this point:
- You’re upgraded to the room you requested
- You’re not upgraded to the room you requested but you get a noticeably better room than the one you were originally assigned.
- You don’t get upgraded.
It goes without saying that outcome (1) is great news and I’d probably consider outcome (2) as a win too (I wouldn’t continue pursuing a better upgrade at this point) but there’s also no point in continuing to debate the merits of your upgrade request if the hotel doesn’t see eye-to-eye with you (option 3).
If you fail to get an upgrade and you feel the hotel is acting unreasonably do not under any circumstances take this out on the staff – it’s probably not their fault.
Accept the room you’ve been assigned, take screenshots of the rooms the hotel was selling on the day of check-in for the dates of your stay and email in a complaint to Marriott Bonvoy.
More importantly, make a note of which hotel was unbudging and don’t return in the future. Why give a hotel that doesn’t honor elite status benefits any more of your money?
On A Personal Note
In the interest of openness, I should point out that I rarely follow the steps in this post as I’m usually not really invested in getting a big upgrade.
If I’m traveling alone (most of my trips) I almost always book the cheapest room and as long as I’m not facing the garbage trucks and as long as I’m not on a low floor I’m generally pretty happy.
When I’m traveling with Joanna things are a bit different so I will question the check-in agents if I think I’ve been passed up for an upgrade I should be getting and I have, on occasions, shown them the better rooms they’re selling via the Bonvoy App and asked (very politely) why we haven’t been allocated one of those…and this has worked well a few times.
I’m always very polite, I never “demand” anything and I know when to walk away without causing a scene (there’s never any point in getting angry) – that’s how I keep my trips uneventful 🙂
Ultimately it will always be down to the hotel what room they allocate you so no matter how well you debate the rights and wrongs of how the hotel is behaving you may still end up with the room you were originally assigned…but knowing your upgrade rights and the rooms the hotel is selling will definitely improve your chances of scoring a better room.
Being calm, measured and polite helps a lot too.