More Information on Starwood Upgrade Program Speculation

Yesterday I posted about a disturbing development with Starwood, where they were apparently testing a change to Platinum upgrade benefits — providing a one room class upgrade instead of upgrade to best available room at checkin, including standard suites.

This morning I posted on Flyertalk

    Starwood is within its rights to change the Terms and Conditions, but frankly changing elite benefits shouldn’t ever be done without substantial notice — people earn their status with butt-in-bed based on the promise of perks the following year. A decision made now to change benefits ought to be implemented beginning in 2008.

    However… if there is a ‘test’ to provide something other than the best available room at checkin, including standard suites then the test is in violation of Starwood Preferred Guest’s terms and conditions.

    Starwood writes the T&C. We have to follow them. The bare minimum that Starwood Preferred Guest must do is adhere to their own T&C.

    Directing hotels to act in contravention to the T&C is actionable.

    This is bad. Very bad. And the fact that Starwood is considering the implications of watering down its upgrade benefit is a huge red flag. That’s the one thing — and really, the only thing — which sets its top-tier elite status apart from Marriott and Hilton.

    Furthermore, Starwood across the board has built a significant reputation over time as a company you can trust that does the right tihng. Quietly developing a program to have hotels ignore its own T&C is disingenous, dishonest, and undermining of that trust.

Fortunately, things may not be so bad.

Starwood Lurker has provided an update to Flyertalk, and it’s encouraging:

    [I]t turns out that this was an [Europe Asia Middle East] Six Sigma project directed at managing premium room availability. It was not a pilot started by SPG to roll out to the rest of the world as a change in member benefits. The folks in charge of it are now aware that it does not match well with SPG Terms and Conditions of Membership regarding Platinum complimentary upgrade benefits. I’m waiting to hear how that will be rectified. If someone lets me know, then I’ll be glad to tell you as well.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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