Hilton HHonors Eliminates Elite Benefits On Third Party Bookings

As I wrote about last week, Hilton has just introduced complimentary wifi for all HHonors members booking directly through Hilton. They’ve updated the HHonors terms & conditions to reflect this change, though it seems that’s not all they’ve explicitly changed.

Hotel-Wifi

Per the updated T&Cs, Hilton will no longer award elite benefits on third party bookings:

Eligibility for all on-property HHonors benefits, including complimentary Internet and MyWay benefits such as complimentary snacks and beverages, complimentary continental breakfast and space-available upgrades, requires a confirmed reservation made through one of the following channels:

Any official direct Hilton Worldwide hotel brand or HHonors website (for example, HHonors.com, Hilton.com, Hampton.com, etc.), Hilton Reservations & Customer Care phone line (1-800-HHonors or local Hilton reservations office), Hilton HHonors or Hilton mobile application, Directly at a hotel in the Hilton Worldwide portfolio, or Through an IATA accredited retail travel agent professional (“Travel Agent”) booking through a Hilton Worldwide channel or the following Global Distribution Systems: Amadeus, Apollo/Galileo, Worldspan and SABRE.

On-property benefits are not awarded in the following circumstances:

Reservations booked through a non-Hilton Worldwide-direct booking channel or a non-designated GDS, third party website or any other channel, Rates available on “opaque” websites where the hotel brand and specific hotel are not known until the booking is made, or Third party hotel packages or travel packages not booked through one of the eligible channels.

It’s worth noting that if you book a stay through an approved travel agent partner who uses a GDS, you’ll receive the same benefits as booking directly through Hilton.

In the past Hilton explicitly excluded third party bookings from being “qualifying stays” for the purposes of earning points and stay credits, though the terms didn’t explicitly address elite benefits. As a result, a vast majority of hotels have honored elite benefits on third party bookings.

Now it remains to be seen whether hotels will actually change how they honor elite benefits on third party bookings. Hotels never had to honor elite benefits under such circumstances, though in practice many properties did. I guess we’ll see whether hotels actually stop honoring benefits because the terms suggest that’s how it should be.

Conrad-HK-Breakfast
No more complimentary breakfast for HHonors Gold/Diamond members on third party bookings

Bottom line

This is a negative change for sure, though also not one I can fault Hilton for. Hotels have a strong incentive to get you to book directly through their channels, given that they don’t have to pay a travel agent/online travel agency a commission that way. Clearly Hilton is trying to strengthen that value proposition further by offering all HHonors members complimentary internet when booking directly through them.

Now it just remains to be seen whether Hilton properties change their behavior to conform to the T&Cs. Hopefully not!

What do you make of this change, and what has been your experience getting Hilton elite benefits honored on third party bookings?

(Tip of the hat to LoyaltyLobby)

Comments

  1. Starwood to my recent dissapointing discovery, do not only not give you benefits such as upgrades etc, when booked though other third party online agents, they do not recognize stay nights or points on the hotel bookings, only on $$ spent for other items at the hotel such as wifi, food etc. Is this your experience Ben?

  2. This probably spells problems for convention stays, which are typically booked by an agent.

  3. What does this mean in terms of Virtuoso/Waldorf Astoria? Was that never allowed?

  4. @ Mike – booking through a TA is okay as long as they use one of the listed GDS. Not sure what your agent uses for group travel though.

  5. Missed revenue opportunity: Hilton should let the guest pay them back the commission out-of-pocket in order to regain elite benefits and stay/night-credits.

  6. On the surface this makes sense, but it’s annoying nonetheless. Not infrequently, I have to stay at a Hilton property when someone else pays for my room (usually a conference or meeting, in which case the booking is made through some third party and not one of the outlets described in Lucky’s post), and Hilton doesn’t credit me with points for the stay. Marriott properties have, however, credited me. So removing elite benefits as well is just another slap in the face. Sure, in these cases I didn’t have a choice of where to stay, but if I were a Hilton elite I’d *still* appreciate it if they recognized my loyalty no matter how the booking was made or who made the choice of hotel!

  7. Will this affect bookings made through Ultimate Rewards? I don’t think Hilton has to pay them a commission, right, so maybe they won’t be an issue?

  8. This is such a negative to someone like me who typically stays on negotiated corporate rates at any of the major cities we do business in…As I have commented on in another post, this is where I have found Marriott Rewards is head and shoulders above the rest…I am SPG Platinum and have to grovel for my elite benefits more times then not if my reservation was booked in-house…IF I receive them, it is usually accompanied by a lecture from the check-in agent…Thanks to the Ritz 140K offer months back, I have to say I have been very pleased with my Ritz/Marriott Gold status and now have a much better understanding of [maybe] why they constantly clean up @ the Freddie Awards…I am ALWAYS thanked for my status and “loyalty” and lounge access and upgrades are PROACTIVELY offered and explained @ check-in…Now clearly I do not have a large # of stays w/ Marriott to make a hugely informed decision, but I have had zero problems YTD…I can completely understand NOT crediting stays/nights on 3rd party bookings/negotiated rates ect ect, but not honoring your benefits is just bad business…

  9. Actually, you got this partly wrong. You DO get Elite Hilton benefits with a travel agent booking (including Virtuoso bookings at member Waldorf Astoria properties).

    Here’s one of the allowed channels:

    “or Through an IATA accredited retail travel agent professional (“Travel Agent”) booking through a Hilton Worldwide channel or the following Global Distribution Systems: Amadeus, Apollo/Galileo, Worldspan and SABRE”

    What Hilton is cutting out are “wholesaler” bookings (such as through expedia, orbitz, etc.) for which they typically “pay” 20% or more in commissions.

    Starwood is similar, btw. They will not give SPG points for wholesaler bookings.

  10. I used to work at Worldspan, back when Orbitz was formed. Does Orbtiz still have a contract with Worldspan? If that’s the case then Orbitz bookings wouldn’t be affected. For that matter, who has contracts directly with a GDS and how does that play into this?

  11. I have to defer to David O’s lofty expertise here, obviously, but the Prestige’s Fourth Night Free is booked through Carlson Wagonlit, which is surely an IATA accredited retail travel agent. So you should be fine there.

  12. What’s Hyatt’s policy on third-party bookings in terms of elite benefits and stay credits? Thanks.

  13. I can see how the Citi Prestige 4th night free is booked through a “legitimate” travel agency and would not be affected. What about just redeeming Thank You points for Hilton nights? Would you get the perks and the points?

  14. Off topic… I have seen that Hilton breakfast picture before on the blog, but I don’t remember what hotel that’s from? Where is it?

  15. I was declined Gold elite benefits last month at Hilton Gatwick Airport (London) as it was a third party booking. Never had a problem before and they always honoured it, even at this same hotel 6 weeks before I had them declined.

  16. While I understand the issue about paying a commission, I have a point to make on the opposing side. While only corporate America could decide that me paying at a minimum $20/night for 100+ nights so they can now manage travel for the company, I find this decision as dumb as my company corporate policy to use Egencia. Now I have no reason whatsoever to book one chain. Best price will prevail. At least the last few stays since I have had to change to Egencia, I have been able to give my Diamond number to the front desk and get the benefits. No points or credit. But the benefits were given. If I get no benefits, Hilton now doesn’t get my business at all in some situations and that is going to far exceed paying a few 10% commissions when I am really paying higher rates than AAA or AARP rate. Corporate America has lost their minds and we are showing we could care less about profitability for the sake of ease and policy. I look at Corporate Execs and just laugh now days. As long as they get their bonus, they could care less about profitability.

  17. Will be interesting how they handle the bookings at expedia and other if they where booked before the 4th june. I have a few bookings which are also booked with a third party website and they put me the bookings into the acount so i could use the gold benefits.

  18. > I used to work at Worldspan, back when Orbitz was formed.
    > Does Orbtiz still have a contract with Worldspan? If that’s the
    > case then Orbitz bookings wouldn’t be affected. For that matter,
    > who has contracts directly with a GDS and how does that play
    > into this?

    Some definitions…

    Orbitz, Expedia, etc. are OTA’s (online travel agencies) and wholesalers.

    a) If you book a NET rate (i.e., a prepaid rate out of which the wholesaler pays the hotel its negotiated rate and keeps its profit in house), this would not qualify.

    b) But what about a “flexible” rate where you “pay at the hotel” when you check out? A lot depends on what rate is actually being booked. If Orbitz/Expedia is booking a Rack rate that is commissionable at 10%, *maybe* you can get Hilton perks. But if they’re booking a negotiated rate with higher commission, I doubt it.

    The problem is that wholesaler/OTA websites are not transparent about the rates.

    A GDS (such as Sabre) basically plugs into Hilton’s reservation system (and that of hundreds thousands of other reservation systems). When a TA makes a Sabre booking, he/she is booking a public Hilton rate directly out of Hilton reservations system. Exact same thing if a TA phones Hilton reservations or uses the Hilton website.

    > I have to defer to David O’s lofty expertise here, obviously,
    > but the Prestige’s Fourth Night Free is booked through Carlson
    > Wagonlit, which is surely an IATA accredited retail travel agent.
    > So you should be fine there.

    Carlson Wagonlit is definitely an IATA qualified travel agency. The unanswered quation about the 4th Night Free is that no one quite knows how it works. What I’ve heard is that you pay all four nights to the hotel, and Prestige refunds the 4th night to your card. Who pays for that fourth night?

    If they have a negotiated 4th night free rate with these hotels, this is presumably not a GPS-bookable rate… but I’m guessing here.

  19. So, what happens if you find a lower rate on Expedia? Can you still tell Hilton and they will match that price? I did that last year… Found a lower price on Expedia and Hilton honored that price..

  20. @ Shanghai9 — Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe it’s a case of “your mileage may vary.”

  21. I can confirm that at the Hilton Glendale they have implemented this change. They did make a one-time exception to honor the benefits this stay but I was told that they no longer honor benefits when booking via a third-party.

    Considering that hotel tonight was half the price for this evening it’s still a better deal to use a third-party. At least this time.

  22. Just checked into the garden inn Times Square and they do not value benefits anymore. Is the fourth Hilton this week but the first with that problem. I think it is bad behaviour not to inform customer in an email that t&c changed.

  23. Ben,

    If someone else books a stay for me using their Hilton points and the reservation is under my name, would I still get benefits of my status? Just got matched to Hilton Diamond!

  24. When I pick a package I make sure I choose one which will give me benefits, If I am not going to receive benefits then I am wide open to choose where ever I want. I am sure I am not alone. Just ensures they may lose my business.

  25. I am the general manager of a Hilton property and the main purpose of this is to weed out bookings from the OTAs (online travel agencies) this is almost exclusively Expedia since they have bought nearly every booking site. They charge an exorbitant 18% plus commission which is deducted from the compensation upfront that is sent to the hotel from Expedia since the customer pays Expedia directly. They are very difficult to work with and it makes it hard to offer discounted rates of the public and when Expedia books these rates they are discounted an additional almost 20% our hotel actually loses money on the bookings that come from these channels

  26. Paul says:
    June 10, 2015 at 12:50 am

    If I book a hotel reward booking with Air Miles, do I still get my Hilton HHonors benefits?

    @ Doug Bradley
    Can you answer this question from 16 months ago please? I want to use United Miles to book a hotel at a Doubletree in the UK, and from the looks of it – Hilton uses Tourico Holidays “Direct Connect” GDS platform. Is Tourico an authorized Third Party Vendor? They must be if Hilton is allowing United Mileage Plus award miles to book? Can I get confirmation of that Bradley?

    Thank you!

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