Something Big on the Horizon for Starwood Preferred Guest?

Flyertalk’s Starwood Lurker is ‘teasing us’ with the tagline,

Guess what’s next?
in his signature appended to all of his posts.

There’s even a Flyertalk thread dedicated to guessing what’s next.

And William does helpfully tell us in that thread that ‘what’s next’ does not refer to the return of peak season increased redemption rates for category 5, 6, and 7 properties.

Now, the last time Starwood built up suspense for a big announcement, all they had was SPG Flights, the option to redeem flights for air travel directly rather than through mileage transfers. A benefit I would never, ever take advantage of, the value proposition is simply poor (though I’ll never complain about new added options for members, this one was simply not one to get excited about).

Personally though, in spite of being fooled by the hype that something big would be announced when all they came out with was SPG Flighs, I have to believe they’re coming up with something of pretty good value. And I have to guess that it’s an improvement to their top tier elite level. (Even if it were not a benefit available just to requalifying Platinums.)

Starwood had exactly four things going for it relative to the competition:

  1. Redemption without capacity controls. You could pretty much always use your points. But Hyatt and Hilton have both matched, eliminating this as a unique selling proposition.

  2. Suite upgrades. Hilton, Priority Club, and Marriott don’t provide suites as a published benefit of their elite program. Starwood does. Hyatt has trumped with four confirmed suite upgrades annually. And of course the suite upgrades tend to be to higher tier suites as part of the Intercontinental Royal Ambassador program, at least when booking a better room than the base offering. With Hyatt trumping Starwood, they’re no longer the standout.

  3. Better properties. Starwood simply has the most ‘aspirational’ or dream properties. But with the introduction of categories 6 and 7 and with the requirement to spend double points to access all-suite properties, this advantage is eroded as many of these special places are outside the reach of most members.

  4. Excellent customer service. This is really exemplified by Starwood Lurker on Flyertalk, but is representative of something the SPG program was really outstanding at. There’s been less happiness with the ‘platinum concierge’ service than in the early days of the program, but is still one of the better characteristics of the program.

Starwood was truly the standout progrm for several years but has seen its competitive advantages with members eroded. I’ve been beating that drum for a few years now and figure that sooner or later the program will realize this and attempt to do something game-changing or at least play catchup to Hyatt. And so I’m 40% expecting, 60% hoping, that that’ll be “what’s next.”

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. […] InsideFlyer Recent CommentsAndaz Fifth Avenue (NY) REVIEW – MASTER THREAD – Page 28 – FlyerTalk Forums on Andaz 5th Avenue: Really Great First Stay, Could Become My New Go-to in New YorkFREEDOM on What the TSA Thinks of You and Your RightsWandering Aramean on Thanksgiving in Mumbai: Lufthansa’s First Class Terminal in FrankfurtRambuster on Thanksgiving in Mumbai: The Worst First Class Flight I’ve Ever Experienced, Frankfurt-Mumbai in Lufthansa First ClassDavid on Something Big on the Horizon for Starwood Preferred Guest?Blogroll […]


  1. Increased spend threshold for Platinum status and combining bus and personal amex spends to meet a platinum threshold would be a nice year end upgrade.

  2. I hoping it is the ability to reach top tier Platinum)with credit card spend

    Increased spend threshold for Platinum status and combining bus and personal amex spends to meet a platinum threshold would be a nice year end upgrade.

    well i hope not. who is not staying at spg the hardway should not be able to get platinum by spend.

    i hope it will be something like, 4 confirmed upgrades for platinum + the usual benefits.

    than better award availability for platinums, if you are a platinum you always get an award.(the cash and points are sometimes hard to get)


  3. I would love for the benefit to be that PLAT members can ALWAYS redeem for Cash & Points! Or maybe, allow 4 Cash & Points redemptions per year for stays that don’t allow it? 🙂

  4. Appreciate the blog Gary, but I still don’t see how the 4 confirmable Hyatt Diamond suite upgrades trumps the Starwood Platinum suite upgrades that are given at check-in. My experience differs. I have 37 stays this year (98 nights) and have been given a suite at least 30 times, and these stays are mostly at their high-end Asia properties. Similar stats last year. Under Hyatt, i would have been upgraded to a suite on only 4 of those 37 stays, a much lower percentage of both stays and nights. Now maybe the Hyatt program is better in other ways, but I don’t think this is one of them.

  5. @Carl you get suites in Asia regularly with Starwood, sure… the 4 confirmables aren’t the only ones at Hyatt, either, but the point is that you get the benefit you want the most when you most want it, no catch as catch can at checkin. If you travel 30 times a year for business by yourself and don’t care about the upgrade the suite is wasted but you really want it on a vacation with your family you get to do that.

  6. Hystt gives 4 confirmed upgrades, SPG gives zero. Diamonds with Hyatt often get upgraded to a suite at check-in without using their suite upgrade certificates.

  7. nope, but i was denied my upgrades at hyatt, as often the diamond upgrades were not availalble on that day i wnated to use them!

    so starwood is much better with the suite upgrades.


  8. @Carl Most Asia properties have better treatment to elites than North America, almost every chains F at Marriott Resort as Gold or Plat, but in Asia, you do so that’s also why you always get suite upgrade. In US, getting a suite with SPG is not harder and harder, that’s where Hyatt stands out.

    Also, as Gary said, most people don’t care about upgrades to suite on business trip, but for that 1 or 2 times you do care is you are on vacation

  9. Gary,
    Thanks as always for your well thought out well said assessment.It is spot on as always.There really is nothing for SPG to offer at this point except offer breakfast.What else don’t they offer or promise regardless of how they deliver?Matching suite upgrades like Hyatt 🙂
    SPH has really hit a brick wall.I do not see them making their awards more fairly value priced…..but in this day and age it is hard to be a game changer.I am going to say that if SPG did nothing more than hold their hotels accountable to strict quality standards/guest/brand assurance and consistent program recognition I for one would be happy with or without a breakfast.

  10. @dp Agree about the fact that suite upgrades are not always available with Hyatt when you want them. It took four stays and a personal plea to the hotel to use a single cert at the Hyatt Regency Tokyo this year.

    @Mike I’ve been a Hyatt Diamond for about 4 years and I’ve never gotten a suite upgrade at a Hyatt without using a cert other than on my 40th stay at the Grand Hyatt Mumbai. I had over 60 revenue/award stays this year in SPG properties in Asia and perhaps 4-5 times was not in a suite. I’ll take the SPG policy over Hyatt any day.

    @Gary I care about the upgrade on business trips as I’m on business trips over 200 days of the year.

Leave a Reply

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