Hilton HHonors Lifts Blackout Dates and Capacity Controls on Hotel Night Award Redemptions

Hilton HHonors has announced a huge improvement to its award redemption program — no blackout dates, and from the way that I read it what they actually mean is also no capacity controls, just like Starwood if a standard room is available you can redeem for it with points.

The fine print here presumably is that each hotel will likely have some flexibility in determining what constitutes a standard room, this is a problem at the occasional Starwood property as well.

Hilton has long offered the ‘diamond force’ for award nights for its top tier elite members. Presumably now all members will be able to redeem award nights just about any time they wish. This is a huge move for Hilton, and I’m waiting to see how this plays out in practice. Hilton HHonors points used to be somewhat limited in their ability to guarantee a redemption, which is one of the really outstanding features that the Starwood program has had going for it over all the competition.

Now that both Starwood and Hilton are offering similar policies in this regard, it will be interesting to see how Priority Club, Marriott, and Hyatt react — if they lose members or stays at all, if they adjust their own policies.

The accounting on this has to be complicated. I know that Starwood manages it by paying hotels their average daily room night for an award room on nights where the hotel’s occupancy exceeds 90%. In other words, when a hotel really is likely giving up a high priced paid night in exchange for an award night, the hotel receives much more money than they do on a regular night when the hotel is giving up a room that would otherwise have gone unsold.

Presumably a change like this for Hilton also changes the way that a hotel is compensated for rooms by the program. I know that Marriott has a completely different revenue structure for its hotels, I believe they offer incrementally more revenue for each award night redeemed at a property. This encourages the property to make more and more room nights available as each becomes more lucrative for the hotel.

Very interesting development, worth watching, and suddenly most members’ Hilton points have become more valuable. I fully expect that it won’t be a perfect panacea for all members, even Diamonds current have tremendous difficulty securing award nights at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island and I don’t expect that to change!

Me, though, I’ll stick with Starwood for their better properties (for my tastes) and better upgrade policies for Platinum elites (which includes suites). And I’ll continue to prefer Intercontinental’s Royal Ambassador program for upgrades, 8am checkin, and the free minibar. Alas neither progam has nearly the number of properties that Hilton does. So this is a huge move, and one that makes me more willing to accumulate HHonors points whether through stays, credit cards, or transfers from programs like e-Rewards and Mypoints.

Hat tip to NotiFlyer.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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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  1. FYI I had a conversation with the GM of the Sydney Hilton back in November on this subject. He told me they were already paid for reward nights as a function of hotel occupancy on the night the reward is used, rather than when it’s booked.

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