Is Starwood Quietly Making Changes To Their Platinum Suite Upgrade Policy?

Earlier today we learned that it will mostly be business as usual for Marriott and Starwood in 2018, as the two brands will maintain separate loyalty programs. So it looks like Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest will be merged in 2019 at the earliest, which has a lot of us Starwood loyalists excited.

One of my favorite aspects of top tier status with Starwood is that they offer unlimited complimentary suite upgrades subject to availability. This contrasts to Marriott’s policy of offering room upgrades subject to availability, which may include a suite at the hotel’s discretion.

In other words, at a Starwood hotel you’re “entitled” to a suite if it’s empty, while at a Marriott hotel it’s at the hotel’s discretion.

Just to drive home the point even more, here’s how Starwood describes their Platinum suite upgrade policy:

An upgrade to best available room at check-in — including a Standard Suite.

Here’s how Marriott describes their Platinum suite upgrade policy:

Complimentary Room Upgrade: Based on room availability at check-in and limited to a Member’s personal guestroom. Upgrades may include rooms with desirable views, rooms on high floors, corner rooms, rooms with special amenities, rooms on Executive Floors, or suites.  All upgrades are granted on a space-available basis, as determined at the time of check-in. Upgrades are subject to availability and identified by each hotel.

Hints of Starwood’s future suite upgrade policy?

It’s possible that this is has simply been a glitch for the past several months, but if history is any indicator, “glitches” like this are often indicative of things to come. Or who knows, maybe this is actually intentional.

When you requalify for Starwood Platinum status you receive an email with the subject line “Enjoy Your Platinum Status with SPG.”

It lists all the benefits you receive for being a Platinum member. Back when I requalified for Platinum status in May, the section regarding suite upgrades read as follows, along with the corresponding footnotes (bolding in the footnotes section is mine):

Step up your stay. An upgrade to the best available room at check-in — including a Standard Suite.

Subject to availability for the length of the stay, provided the room was not booked through a prepaid, third-party channel, including priceline.com, expedia.com, booking.com, orbitz.com, elong.com and delta.com. Upgrades are to best available room, including Standard Suites. Not offered at Aloft and Element hotels.

YHBU points out that members who have requalified for Platinum more recently (as of June, it seems), received a slightly different welcome email. Specifically, the section about suite upgrades read as follows (bolding in the footnotes section is mine):

Step up your stay. Enhanced room upgrades at check-in and 4 p.m. late check-out.

Subject to availability for the length of the stay, provided the room was not booked through a prepaid, third-party channel, including priceline.com, expedia.com, booking.com and orbitz.com. Enhanced rooms are rooms on higher floors, corner rooms, newly renovated rooms and rooms with preferred views. Enhanced rooms do not include suites. Not offered at Aloft or Element hotels.

It looks like Starwood has adjusted their Platinum upgrade terms to align with Marriott, at least in this email. However, I should note that the homepage with SPG Platinum benefits continues to list upgrades to the best available rooms, including suites.

There are a few ways this change can be interpreted:

  • Starwood wants to get more conservative with their terms for the time being in terms of what they’re promising for the remainder of the membership year, since they don’t know what exactly a combined program will look like
  • This is a planned change that’s on the horizon, and someone just accidentally hit “publish” too early
  • Marriott is slowly trying to condition SPG members into not expecting suite upgrades, and this is the first step

Personally I’m not reading too much into this just yet, as I doubt we’ll see any major changes before the programs are combined. Once they are combined, I do suspect they’ll take the Marriott approach towards suite upgrades rather than the Starwood approach, though I certainly hope I’m wrong.

What do you make of SPG changing the way they phrase their Platinum upgrade policy?

(Tip of the hat to YHBU)

Comments

  1. The language regarding “Enhanced” rooms actually sounds like the SPG Gold benefit. I wonder if this is actually an IT error where it’s populating that part of the email with information for Golds instead of Platinums.

  2. @ DWT — That could be true, but it doesn’t change the fact that the footnotes also have revised language which matches what Marriott has, so if there’s an error then both parts are wrong.

  3. Arne at Marriott just doing what we expected him to do all along to the SPG Platinum program. I never expected him to honor his word. After all, all one has to do is look how Marriott has gutted the benefits of other brands’ that they acquired in the recent past. There is a huge reason I was a SPG Platinum for 20+ yrs over having no Marriott status. IMHO, it will just get worse in the future. The Marriott bean counters always win over the Marriott customer first types

  4. Lucky. What’s the difference what’s written. Even when suites have been available to book at many SPG properties I am told no suites available. Every property is different and the fact is SPG has a nasty elite program with crappy earn and burn and forcing you to give up your points amenity. Hopefully they keep Marriott as is. Maybe just add less breakfast restrictions. SPG is terrible.

  5. So what’s the difference between platinum and gold then?

    Also, cue the people bitching about the word “entitled.” When you are guaranteed something, that entitles you to it. I feel like the old people who whine about that don’t know the definition or think that you haven’t earned it through loyalty.

    For those people, picture it as you paying for a car and you agreed that floormats are in the price, but when you get in the car, they aren’t there! You are ENTITLED to them. That’s not too difficult or millennial, now is it?

  6. Damn lucky your blog is called “one mile at a time” not one “one mile, bed, credit card, headset, amazon deal, Starbucks at a time”

  7. I’ve got 155 nights with spg this year and I’ve been consistently in category 5-7 properties. I never get suite upgrades. Usually they’ll do an upgrade to the next class of room, but never a suite.

    I’ve recently decided that the platinum benefits aren’t any better than what I get with Amex…

  8. SPG Platinum gets nothing in the US except the bonus point and lounge access (which you can now get with a credit Card ). Most Sheraton lounges are behind Marriott in terms of quality and most Westin’s don’t have a lounge. With no check in point benefit the earn and burn even during promotions is really bad. I can’t say enough how over rated SPG is. Especially for a chain that’s so small .

  9. Since SPG and Marriott now share status, do you get the suite upgrades if you qualify for Platinum status with Marriott?

  10. None of the claims in this post about the SPG suite upgrades policy would pass the most basic syntactical/lexical analysis for accuracy or veracity.

    Marriott and SPG upgrade policies have always been identical, self-anointed travel gurus’ claims to the contrary notwithstanding.

    It is truly amazing to me that these bogus claims continue even after they have been repeatedly debunked and the misinterpretation of the SPG upgrades policy has led to rather hysterical (both meanings of the word) consequences.

    Cheers from the spanking new LondonHouse Curio by Hilton in Chicago, where I scored yet another suite upgrade and is soon to become another iconic property like the Drake or Palmer House in Windy City.

  11. We have seen many IT-issues on the SPG website lately so this could be just a mistake where they erroneously linked the gold text field with the platinum e-mails.
    I found suite upgrades with SPG very consistent and if they had a suite on sale and had not offered it to me at check in I was always able to change that or have SPG call the hotel to change it or compensate me with points as it is a clearly stated benefit and leaves nothing to the discretion of the hotel.

    Now, if they were to change this (I wouldn’t be surprised if the Marriott morons intended to do so) I would clearly reconsider my loyalty. This would be a major cut and trying to introduce it through the backdoor (“as we had already informed you…”) would be yet another sign for the real character of the Marriott approach.

  12. @DCS, go get yourself a psychologist to your splendid Hilton
    @Lucky, it wouldn’t harm if you reached out to SPG for aclaration but I guess you have already done so…

  13. The language you quote is exactly, word-for-word the language in the SPG Gold e-mail, so I think it could be an IT error, as some have said. Unless they are aligning the Gold and Platinum upgrade policies.

  14. Having drinks with someone who works the desk at an Aloft hotel. She told me that they do not distinguish between gold and platinum guests. In the morning they meet to discuss room allocations and it is the people who have a record of complaining who get the special attention. Near in mind Aloft do not have suites and this is only one hotel data point.

  15. “Enhanced rooms are rooms on higher floors, corner rooms, newly renovated rooms and rooms with preferred views. Enhanced rooms do not include suites.”

    “Enhanced rooms” is the same as “best available room.”

    All SPG has done is to clarify their prior policy, which did not spell out what was meant by “enhanced rooms” or “best available rooms”, leading to the misinterpretation that the policy “entitled” SPG Plats to suite upgrades when available, unlike the policies for HH and MR, which have always clearly spelled out what an “enhanced room” or “best available room” could be, up to a standard suite, based on availability.

    The bit that should worry SPG plats (I believe it is an error if that is what’s been published) is this: “Enhanced rooms do not include suites.” That would be a cataclysmic downgrade of the upgrade policy. Make sure it is typo!

  16. All-clear! I’ve reached out to the SPG Platinum Liaison and indeed it seems like an IT glitch when the re-qualification e-mail was sent. Here is their response:

    “I have reviewed all of our documents and spoken with my colleagues to ensure we are providing you the correct information. The Platinum upgrade benefit has not changed, you are still entitled to an upgrade to standard suite or best room at check-in, based upon availability for the duration of your stay.

    The upgrade information you received was for the Gold Status, I have sent your email to the appropriate team to look into this to ensure it is looked into and fixed. I regret any confusion or inconvenience this may have caused you. Please let us know if there is anything else we can assist you with.”

    Cheers, Tobi

  17. I requalified as SPG platinum in early Oct this year and received the exactly words as lucky’s reader posted. I wouldn’t read too much into it though.

  18. I requalified for SPG Platinum in late September, and the e-mail included the “enhanced room” language cited in Lucky’s post. However, there was also a link to “View All SPG Platinum Benefits” that linked to the SPG Platinum Benefits webpage, which said one of the benefits is “An upgrade to best available room at check-in — including a Standard Suite”.

  19. Once again, a certain Hilton Troll fails to realize the word “Suite” doesn’t show up anywhere on the Diamond benefits page

    Yes, there is a difference…

  20. Anyone who can read would already know the following, which the “Hilton Troll” has posted ad nauseam:

    “At Waldorf Astoria® Hotels & Resorts, Conrad® Hotels & Resorts, Canopy™ by Hilton, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Curio – A Collection by Hilton and DoubleTree by Hilton™ and Tapestry Collection by Hilton™ properties, Diamond Hilton Honors Members will receive upgrades to preferred rooms, based on availability at the time of arrival (excludes Napua Tower at Grand Wailea and Imperial Floor at Rome Cavalieri). Upgrades for Diamond Hilton Honors Members may include upgrades up to “junior”, “standard” or “one-bedroom” SUITES. ”

    Rest of policy is lexically identical among all the hotel loyalty programs, especially now that SPG may be spelling out what they mean by “best available room” or “enhanced rooms.”

    Now, who is the troll, ey?

  21. This is incorrect. There is a specific Platinum terms of condition that states only Platinum elites at Marriott may be upgraded to a suite. It specifically says upgrades for Platinums are to a suite while upgrades for less than Platinum are for a better room.

  22. @Nick — Upgrades for Plats are to the best AVAILABLE room, UP TO a standard suite. That is not really that hard to understand. It is the whole concept behind top elite upgrades in EVERY program…

  23. DCS seems to think that the 4 point text buried deep in the T&Cs on a sub-linked page represents the intent of the program. News flash, it’s not.

    If Hilton (or Marriott) intended to actively upgrade their top tiers to Platinums to suites whenever possible, they would put it as a benefit on the respective Diamond/Platinum pages…which they don’t (and which SPG does).

    Nor does “enhanced room” equal “best available room” – you have to be a true dotard to equalize those.

    It’s not that complicated…especially now that it’s documented this was an IT error.

  24. I am a Hilton Diamond and I’ve cleared better than 90% of my suite upgrades, including a domestic one at a soon to become an iconic hotel in Chicago I just checked out of.

    Nuff said.

  25. Hey not everyone carries a laminated copy of the T&Cs to wave in FDC’s faces. You’re an extreme outlier based on legions of reports.

    Plus all chains are a suite upgrade bonanza in Asia, that doesn’t make you special over there

  26. Just requalifies fir Platimum. My email has the standard Platinum terms regarding suites, not what is noted in the post.

  27. SPG platinum phone desk used to be amazing, no merging with Marriott, they stink. Rude, make mistakes and never go that extra mile SPG did.

    You are better off calling the hotel direct, SPG platinum support is horrible.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *