Ouch: Marriott Implements A Terrible New 72-Hour Cancelation Policy

Well this is disappointing. Marriott seems to have quietly instituted a new 72 hour cancelation policy for all North American properties, effective immediately. This includes all 30+ Marriott and Starwood brands. I don’t see any official announcement about this, though the new policy is reflected when searching rates. In looking up hotel rates I’m seeing the new 72 hour rule mostly across the board at Marriott family properties in North America.

The same is mostly true for Starwood, though I’m seeing some hotels with a two day policy. I’m not sure if this is intentional, or if these hotels just haven’t fully updated their systems yet. For what it’s worth, these are mostly hotels that previously had a one day policy, so maybe they’re not going quite as strict at all hotels (though even a two day policy is restrictive, in my opinion).

It’s no surprise to see this trend in the hotel industry in general. Allowing people to cancel up until the day of arrival potentially costs hotels quite a bit of revenue. While they can forecast pretty well how many people usually cancel last minute, it’s a tricky balance between maximizing revenue and not having to “walk” guests when the hotel is oversold.

In late 2014 we last saw most of the major hotel chains adjust their cancelation policies. While different chains have different policies, at the time Marriott changed their policy so that you had until 11:59PM the day before departure to cancel. Prior to that some hotels let you cancel up until the day of arrival, while others required you to cancel up until the day prior.


JW Marriott Essex House

Bottom line

Marriott implementing a new cancelation policy is a terrible move for customers. More often than not I book hotels within three days of arrival, so not being able to adjust reservations within that timeframe just sucks, plain and simple. I’m not at all happy about this…

(Tip of the hat to @TravelJono)

Comments

  1. Yuck.

    Although it all depends on if other brands follow Marriott’s lead. If not, they’ll walk it back.

  2. Oddly enough, I’ve seen the opposite trend with IHG. Perhaps it’s a reflection of their notoriously poor IT infrastructure, but many of my non-prepaid bookings lately have had illogically generous deadlines.

    The published cancellation times have been 6:00 PM the day of the reservation, AFTER I’m allowed to check in.

  3. Lucky, maybe this was a glitch? I just did a quick search for a major city in the US arriving next week and across different brands I see 1-day and 2-day policies only.

  4. “More often than not I book hotels within three days of arrival, so not being able to adjust reservations within that timeframe just sucks, plain and simple.”

    Or maybe it’s exactly to target this type of behavior of customers making multiple bookings for the exact same days and vicinity and only to cancel most of them right before picking one to check in. Unlike flights, there are hardly instances where unsold room inventory by 6pm can be sold at all.

    Airlines price full fare Y at ridiculously high levels to deter this type of behavior while hotels barely charge a premium for this flexibility, and clearly there are too many abusers.

    Another dynamic about hotels vs. airlines is that airline prices go up ridiculously fast within the 7 day and 3 day windows while hotels rarely offer such a gigantic spread between their rates …. so if your plans are still too much in flux within the 72 hour timeframe, you’re better off booking once the plans are more settled – it’s not like you can gain much savings by booking 3 days ahead versus a walk-up rate.

  5. I’m a hotel sales person, and have worked at all the big chains over my 30+ years in the industry. (To be open, I used to work for Marriott for 20 years, but no longer do) I find it interesting that people have no problem with not being able to cancel a flight, yet have a problem with not being able to cancel a hotel. A hotel room and an airline seat are perishable products. If they go unused, they’re wasted.
    In addition there is forecasting and staff schedules based on forecasts, which are based on current reservations and other factors.
    For a hotel to loose one or two rooms day of, doesn’t sound like a lot, but it adds up. And a 72 hour cancel policy isn’t unreasonable. This can give a hotel time to adjust schedules, staff etc.
    In my opinion, this is just the industry catching up.

  6. Maybe its part of a strategy that they’ll roll in a shorter cancellation window for elites or something like that. One can only hope..

  7. I think most travelers know with certainty which hotels they’ll be staying at within three days, so being locked into a specific property at that point won’t make much difference. The big negative is being locked into a particular rate so that even if it goes down after the 3 day mark or you see a different cheaper rate at that time, you can’t change your reservation to take advantage of it without being penalized for cancelling. This may not matter much at chains with fairly consistent rates, but those with rubber ball pricing (I see you, Hilton) may turn off customers by adopting more stringent cancellation periods.

  8. I’ve been burned many times for last minute hotel cancellations due to flight cancellations. I understand and accept the penalty. What I hate more is being walked (always to a lesser product) by Marriott because they overbooked. I don’t know if this action changes that dynamic but it can’t hurt.

  9. 72 hours is far too big a window. 24 hours is perfectly acceptable. 48 hours would be OK with me but even then I would still prefer 24.

  10. Made two reservations earlier today, one at an Autograph, one at a regular full-service Marriott. Both had a 2-day (48 hr) deadline for free cancellation.

  11. Correction: got further clarafication that the policy was only implemented today for all properties in the northeast region, unless all North American properties I previously stated.

    This came from our sales/revenue management memo this morning. Personally, I’m not a fan of this change either. On the hotel side, while we may be able to reduce spoilt inventory and increase cancellation fees, that doesn’t account for the revenue we may potentially lost as a result of people holding off to make their booking, potentially booking away.

    Unfortunately there’s nothing property level team can do, as this decision came from the regional level

  12. Not happy.

    I rarely need to cancel “at the last moment,” but there are certainly times when I have — say, 24-hours before. I have no idea how many reservations get cancelled “last minute” that Marriott feels they need to implement a 48-72 hour policy, but as a consumer, it SUCKS! I’ve been a loyal Starwood customer. Nothing says I have to be loyal to Marriott . . .

  13. I noticed today when making a booking that HiltonHonors properties that previously had 1-day cancellation policies now require 2 days.

  14. @David Boohoo for hotels Ive been in enough bad ones I don’t care anymore and people dont tolerate it on airlines they have no choice because regardless of deregulation air carriers get to do what they want. I’m no fan of big Govt but sick of these businesses that prey on folks. Don’t give me the “poor business” speech lest I point out the Dr who was beaten & dragged off a plane

  15. Well, they tried to cancel ME on Tuesday night in Pennsylvania. Said they were overbooked and would I like to stay down the street? No, because I was meeting my boss there, and the place down the street didn’t have food in the building and I was hungry and tired. But then I simply asked, do you have a room for me now? And they said yes. Some other poor sap had to go down the street, I guess.

  16. Does this policy still apply for Platnium members? I’ve also seen day of cancels in place for corporate bookings, also affected?

  17. I vote with my feet: I don’t book hotels with an onerous cancellation policy unless I have no other options. I also avoid hotels without free WiFi. On principle

  18. When booking award airline travel, sometimes you don’t know until the last minute if you can get an award. It has to be either the chicken or the egg that comes first. Flights have to be first priority. If you wait til last minute to book the hotel then usually there is no availability or the rate is sky high. My flights to Asia all have about a 2-3 day window depending on the last minute when I can get first on Cathay for example. There has to be some flexibility somewhere and if the hotel is not going to allow it then they lost a booking from me that they would have mostly like had. 48 hr is not ideal but workable. 72 hr is out of the question. I realize this is US bookings but could expand.

  19. @David

    As a practical matter, I have far more choice in hotel accommodations than I do airlines, especially if I value non-stop flights.

    Second, when I fly, it’s usually for some significant trip that I’ve planned for and will unlikely move. Hotels can be booked around more flexible trips, such as driving. I might want to make a short weekend getaway within driving distance, that I may end up cancelling if I have to work late on Friday and the drive just isn’t worth it.

    Finally, we’re just used to airlines ripping you off for last minute changes.

  20. It is not a glitch. Look for more changes to come. Company is hoping to become like airlines and also charge for changes to a reservation, like date changes etc. I work for the company and hate the idea

  21. @henryLAX

    “Airlines price full fare Y at ridiculously high levels to deter this type of behavior while hotels barely charge a premium for this flexibility, and clearly there are too many abusers.”

    I don’t see how that makes sense. Can you explain?

    Y fares are almost always fully refundable, which is one reason for the high price, vs. lower price fares that usually come with exorbitant change fees (if changes are allowed at all) and are always non-refundable. Another reason for the high price of Y tickets is due to the fact that most people flying last minute *have to fly* at the last minute. These are usually business people who pass along the expense to the client or their company, but there are others who need last minute tickets, and guess what: Y is usually the only fare bucket available at that point. Some will pull full Y even far in advance, and these people need the flexibility to refund or make last-minute changes.

    Generally, this is a customer-hostile move unless exceptions are made. Example: Airport weather. Example: Airline mechanical issues. Example: Catastrophic weather (hurricane in a region).

  22. @David —> You wrote, “I find it interesting that people have no problem with not being able to cancel a flight, yet have a problem with not being able to cancel a hotel. A hotel room and an airline seat are perishable products. If they go unused, they’re wasted.”

    This assumes that people are OK with not being able to cancel a flight. a) This isn’t true. On most airlines, even a non-refundable ticket can be cancelled; the money isn’t lost, it’s just put into a “travel bank.” Depending upon the airline, there may or may not be some sort of a cancellation fee¹. b) On some airlines, one merely has to pay a $25 fee in advance, and any and all changes/cancellations are free of any [additional] charge, thus saving the customer the “sting” of a $100, $150, or even $200+ cancelation fee. Thus, any fee is but $25, which is far less than the cost of one’s night’s stay, let alone a loss of the flight’s entire purchase price. c) Purchasing a refundable ticket is always another option, though admittedly one might not want to pay the extra money.

    Now, as I stated above, I rarely cancel a reservation within 24-hours — indeed, I do not recall a time when I’ve ever been “hit” with a 1-night’s cancellation fee. And as someone in semi-retirement, I’m not confronted with, say, a last minute cancellation of a business trip — precisely the scenario I believe this policy is aimed at. Airlines WANT business customers, because they often pay a premium by buying tickets at the last moment. Don’t hotels want the same user base?

    ________________
    ¹ *IF* there is a cancellation fee, that would be the scenario most like cancelling a hotel room on a multi-night reservation, and forfeiting the cost of one night’s stay.

  23. Just move the dates of the reservation to a random future date four days or more from now and then cancel.

  24. I believe I read a WSJ article sometime ago where the CEO of Hilton talked about implementing a 72 hour cancellation policy as a way to “cut down on speculative booking”. I fully expect Hilton to follow through on this now that Marriot has given them “cover”.

  25. So this is all good if you happen to have foresight and can plan on cancelling you reservation. I am living through this absurd, no reasonable accommodation allowed. My flight to SFO was redirected to LAX…needless to say, I could not make my reservation at the JW in downtown SFO…guess which property is now UNWILLING to refund my cancellation charge they gave me!!??

  26. Exec summary .. try a corp rate.

    @David, if I book a full fare air ticket, I expect to be able to cancel it with no penalty. If I book a restricted (deeply discounted) air ticket, I expect it to have penalties.

    Same with hotels. If I book a deeply discounted pre-paid rate that doesn’t allow cancellations without penalty, than that’s what I booked, but if I book an unrestricted, cancellable rate, I expect to be able to cancel it up till some reasonable time, not 3-days, but maybe same day or day before. Marriott wants to add unreasonable restrictions to unrestricted rates for the general public as a way of locking in revenue.

    I checked a couple of San Jose, CA hotels. the standard publicly available non-prepaid rates all have the 3-day penalty now. Fortunately, my corp rate still allows for same day cancel. In many cases, the more restrictive pre-paid rates can be cheaper than the unrestricted corp rate.

    -David

  27. You mean someone at corporate HQ really thinks this will NOT cost them customers?

    I am torn between what to call this. The “Hey SPG elites, get out of here” policy, or the “please go check out our competitors on Priceline before you book at Marriott.com” policy. Both are accurate.

  28. @Chancer: Maybe leisure travelers know where they’ll be in 3 days, but for many business travelers, our schedules are changing constantly.

    My plans for where I’ll be Monday have changed twice in the past 8 hours and I’m heading back on the road in ~10 hours. So, I’m currently packing, mostly knowing where I’ll be for Friday/Saturday night. I probably won’t know until Saturday afternoon where I’ll be. Sunday-Wednesday are a wildcard at this point, with possible destinations in 2 different countries. On the road until Friday, home for 12 whole hours then back on a plane again on another multi-country trip. This has been my “normal” for 15+ years.

  29. Hello from East Africa. This would be a real pity. Due to a flight operational issue a few nights ago I wasn’t able to arrive at a Marriott Protea as scheduled. I rang the hotel (basically €2.5/minute) from the plane to say I was terribly sorry and unfortunately needed to cancel. I had been looking forward to this hotel for over two months. They understood and were sympathetic but said cancellation “was in Marriott’s hands”. I then later rang the gold support desk in USA and got a very kind and thoughtful lady who sympathized with my plight and quickly handled the cancellation and rebooking elsewhere due to my new destination in another country. She was truly fantastic. But what if a totally inflexible cancellation policy had been in place and I was out-of-pocket €100 or more as a result? Fortunately I wasn’t. But inflexible policies like the proposed 72-hour policy can lead to huge headaches and unanticipated fees even on award bookings … and that wouldn’t be a way to keep frequent travelers (or even amateur travelers) very happy. Hopefully they’ll work through this and figure it out.

  30. When I traveled for business, my plans sometimes changed by the hour. My corporation simply would not allow me to stay in a hotel with a 72 cancellation policy, they would tell me to find somewhere else to stay or eat the cost out of my own pocket if plans changed. Big risk Marriott is taking here as a business hotel chain.

  31. @David: “I find it interesting that people have no problem with not being able to cancel a flight, yet have a problem with not being able to cancel a hotel.”

    Uhh… Most people *do* have a problem with the airlines’ cancellation policies, and with the high fees charged for changing or cancelling. The difference between hotels and airlines is that there’s less competition in the airline industry (i.e., there might be 2 or 3 carriers that can take you from A to B, but a dozen or more hotels, many of them independent of the major brands) in just a small city. So airlines have been able to get away with draconian cancellation policies. It remains to be seen whether hotels can also get away with it, but my guess is probably not.

    The other thing about hotels is that you often arrive at your hotel after travelling from somewhere else. If, through no fault of your own, your travel gets messed up and you arrive a day late, you get harshly penalized by a 72 hr policy. While I grant that hotels shouldn’t have to bear the burden of the rest of the travel industry’s problems, that’s still very frustrating to the customer. At the very least I’d expect Marriott to offer a cancel-by-6:00-pm rate that’s slightly higher than the 72 hr cancellation rate.

  32. I have often booked hotels with the most reasonable cancellation policy when choosing, and for that specific reason. Providing no reasonable flexibility when something like a flight cancellation (well beyond your control) occurs is reason to go elsewhere, plain and simple.

  33. Another thing I found out the hard way on the 24 hour cancellation policies of hotels is that when you are delayed one day but are holding a reservation for multiple days, you better phone them and let them know that you will arrive a day late or they will cancel the remainder of the reservation as well as charge you for the first missed night. It’s bad enough to be charged for the late cancellation but worse when you eventually arrive only to find the remainder of your stay has been cancelled and you now have to find other arrangements.

  34. you know what I LOVE about Marriott’s website – that when browsing hotels it only displays your rate for the 1st night, and you can’t see the average rate until 2 pages later. i’m SO HAPPY that soon enough i’ll be using this site to book Starwood hotels too!

  35. As to the cancellation policy, I’m reminded of how on Virgin America there have generally been a raft of ways to get free change/cancellation on a ticket, albeit for a voucher (First had a free change, you got a free change/cancel to voucher if you paid with the company credit card, and you got the same if you had Gold status). As others have noted, you can’t get your money back in most cases with these (IRROPS and whatnot notwithstanding, of course).

    I think a lot of folks would take a system whereby they’d give the hotel money up front with the guarantee of being able to “voucher out” with a cancellation (not unlike the airlines have), and a system of a “cancel fee” of some portion of a night’s room charge within a range of the day of arrival (25-50% within the three days, for example) wouldn’t be unreasonable either.

    To be fair, I have to ask…if you get hit by IRROPS (or something effectively similar) and you booked everything on a card that comes with included travel insurance, would that cover or reimburse the no-show fee?

  36. Marriott’s claims this is reason behind this change:

    Marriott explained that the change will help out customers seeking reservations on short notice, adding that hotels with a one-day policy were left with “a significant number of unsold rooms” due to last-minute cancellations.

    Guests who made their reservations before June 15 can still cancel up to a day before arrival without consequence.

  37. Perhaps with the merger and excess size of the corporation now, they feel comfortable imposing Draconian measures on guests of two large hotel brands, Marriott and Starwood. Big business.

    What can be done, write your governments.

    We are all in trouble because how long before Hilton succumbs.

  38. It continues. Hyatt makes their rewards program worse. Now Marriott and SPG make it tougher to cancel. The hotel industry will continue to get worse for consumers. Why? Because there is less choice now.

    Thanks Obama for allowing the mergers. Really stuck up for the little people.

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