One Way I’ve Dealt With Hotel Upgrade Shenanigans in the Past – But It’s Risky

DAYflier ran into a situation at the JW Marriott Cancun where he says that explain their policy is not to upgrade Platinums to suites.

I spoke to Marriott CSR (I’m on vacation, so I thought I’d waste my time). She apparently called the property and then got back onto the line and advocated on behalf of the property. You see, the property only makes “available” enhanced view rooms as an upgrade for elites.

A separate problem here is Marriott customer service. They don’t know the program rules, give out inaccurate information all the time, so simply repeating this trope is unfortunately par for the course.

So what happened? He was offered an available suite for $500 (covering the length of the stay) and took it.


JW Marriott Cancun, credit: Marriott

Marriott’s Platinum Suite Upgrade Rules

Let’s take a look at what Marriott’s obligations here are. These are the terms for Platinum elite upgrades at Marriott properties,

Platinum Elite Members and above receive a complimentary upgrade to the best available room subject to availability for the entire length of stay at the time of check-in. Complimentary upgrade includes suites, rooms with desirable views, rooms on high floors, corner rooms, rooms with special amenities or rooms on Executive Floors. At The Ritz-Carlton, suites are only included for Titanium Elite and Ambassador Elite Members and rooms with direct Club access are excluded. Enhanced Room Upgrades are subject to availability and are identified by each Participating Property. The Complimentary Enhanced Room Upgrade for Platinum Elite Members and above is available at all Participating Brands except at Marriott Vacation Club, Marriott Grand Residence Club, Aloft, Element and participating Vistana properties.

Here are what this means for getting a suite.

  • Upgrades include standard suites, which ones those are though are determined by the hotel. You have to be a 75 night elite to get suite upgrades at Ritz-Carlton but otherwise 50 night elites are entitled to available suites except at timeshare properties, Aloft, Element, and non-participating brands like Bvlgari.

  • The suite has to be available at time of check-in. A hotel might be selling a suite but if it’s not clean yet when you check in the hotel doesn’t have to assign it to you.

  • The suite has to be available for your whole stay. If you’re staying 5 nights they aren’t going to give you a suite for 3 nights and then have you move.

The guest says there was an available “Parlor suite,” that he should have gotten it complimentary, but he had to pay for it.

Was the Guest Improperly Denied an Upgrade?

There’s one problem with the guest’s narrative. A parlor suite doesn’t appear to be a room type at this hotel so we do not know what kind of room he found available, and whether it should have been offered as an upgrade or not.

He does relay that the hotel said they “would have given us the suite if we had applied [Suite Night Awards] in advance. If it’s “available” for purposes of a SNA, then it should be available for a complimentary upgrade.”

This is not actually correct.

  • Members staying 50 nights or more per year can opt for ‘suite night awards’ where they are able to prioritize an upgrade up to 5 days in advance of arrival.

  • Hotels designate room types for these, and guests choose what they’re interested in spending a suite night award for it it’s available.

  • Unlike complimentary upgrades, when hotels are close to sell-out Marriott does compensate the property (a very small amount) for confirmed suite night awards.

  • A hotel may make rooms available through this process that are not part of the pool of suites for complimentary upgrades.

Things Are Much Clearer With Hyatt

I like that Hyatt actually publishes what each hotel considers to be a standard suite – and therefore eligible for complimentary and confirmed top tier elite upgrades as well as points upgrades and free night awards.

I also like that Hyatt lets you redeem more points for premium suites (that are not eligible for top tier elite complimentary and confirmed upgrades), and publishes what rooms qualify for that.

At Hyatt each hotel determines the eligible rooms, and they actually tell you what those rooms are.

Agree to Pay and Argue Later?

Let’s assume though that what the guest referred to as a ‘parlor suite’ is a suite type the hotel is supposed to upgrade Platinums to. It’s quite likely to be the case given that the upcharge was just $500 for the whole stay.

Here’s what I’ve done in a similar situation. I once checked in at the Park Hyatt Sydney early in the morning after a long transpacific flight. They told me they did not have any standard rooms available (I had redeemed points) but they did have an Opera View King available and if I wanted that room it would be an extra AU$100 per night for my 5 night stay. (Since they were ‘full’ they wouldn’t offer any complimentary upgrades.)

Unquestionably this is a room type eligible for elite upgrade. And by definition it was available for the entire length of my stay (as with Marriott, a requirement for Hyatt) since they were offering it to me. I was tired and wanted to go to my room, so I accepted.

And when I got there I sent a complaint. Later that day I received a message from a senior manager of the hotel apologizing and assuring me that I would not be charged. I was offered a complimentary airport pickup on my next stay and they made sure to upgrade me to an Opera Deluxe room for that as well.

The risk of course is (1) being right about the room type that is being offered actually being eligible for elite upgrade, and (2) that you’ll be able to escalate the matter to someone more empowered than Marriott customer service. I haven’t had a problem getting customer service escalation Hyatt.

Marriott of course did promise that they will not let hotels ignore suite upgrade rules and that was in the context of another JW Marriott resort. So hopefully they’ll pay attention to the Cancun property, too.

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. I do not care if you
    Are titanium or 10,000 nights with them. Unless you are at the Ritz Carlton Cleveland in the winter forget any upgrades whatsoever . Feel free to argue your status with the front desk as much as you want .

    PS correction that is Cleveland mid week in the winter

  2. @Gene Agreed. Why waste your time fighting or wondering with Marriott for something that Hyatt usually handles well? My last suite night upgrade at a Renaissance was a room with a couch AND a desk. Wow! That’s not a suite. It’s a joke what Marriott is passing off as suites in general.

  3. I also have moved my business to Hyatt. Transparency, competency, and honesty are great things.

    Marriott has made it very clear their “customers” are not us – they are the hotel owners/developers. There will be zero recourse here, because Marriott is a terrible company.

  4. I am Marriott Platinum and frequently stay at the JW Marriott Resort in Summerlin/Las Vegas. Most of the time I am offered an upgrade to a suite but I am always charged an up charge. They say that if there are any suites still available after everyone has checked in and nobody else has been willing to pay the up charge then they will offer it to me as Platinum for no up charge but they hold the suites first for those who are willing to pay.

  5. As far as I’m concerned there is no transparency in hotel upgrades. I’ve never seen a policy on how upgrades are prioritized among the many guests who are eligible. And even if such a policy exists, there is no way for guests to know if it is being properly followed.

    If anyone knows of such a policy please share because the folks at Marriott don’t know or won’t tell.

  6. Naples beach Ritz told me Monday just one room category upgrade. I told her I thought we get suites now as Titanium. She said we don’t participate it that.
    Same thing at Naples golf Ritz. What a joke.

    I’m a new Hyatt Globalist from their credit card and couldn’t be happier.

  7. As a former Hyatt Diamond for many years I can say that upgrades were not as plentiful as some might want appear to be, internationally there was a great chance domestically many places sucked. Given all the changes at Hyatt and slowing of travel for business I reverted back to my LFT status with Marriott. Issues with upgrades are universal with hotels they suck. GM’s are under tremendous pressure to increase profits and they will hold out for that last dime, then there are people who have an entitlement issue and will argue at the front desk for an upgrade, really embarrassing internationally. A whole new meaning to “ugly American”

    My solution I book the room I want cash/points/ works well

  8. Why do you use the term “standard” (aka select) suite? That’s something that was used by SPG. It doesn’t exist under Marriott. Marriott says you are entitled to the best available suite. Yes, a hotel could limit suite upgrades by making only entry-level suites available but I’ve always understood Marriott’s policy to be if a suite shows up as available on Marriott.com then it is upgrade eligible. Hotels that want to limit their best suites do so by making them only bookable through the property itself, not through Marriott.com.

  9. @Edward Thomas – the word standard is not in the terms, but the language gets to the same thing, the category of suite any given hotel will upgrade you to is “identified by each Participating Property.” And they can be as generous or un-generous as they wish, more or less and subject to certain restriction. It is NOT the case “if a suite shows up as available on Marriott.com then it is upgrade eligible” rather if the SUITE TYPE THE HOTEL HAS DESIGNATED AS ELIGIBLE FOR COMPLIMENTARY UPGRADE “shows up as available on Marriott.com then it is upgrade eligible” — very different thing.

  10. You’re confusing program rules. Marriott does not limit Platinum suite upgrades to “standard suites.”

    And you’ve made the analysis way too complicated. Bottom line is this property is flagrantly violating T&C, and Marriott cs backed them up.

    You’ve become a Bonvoy Apologist.

  11. I just gave up last year on Hyatt after years of Diamond & 2 years of Globalist. They play games with upgrades all the time from Bangkok to Huntington Beach. With the small footprint and the increased requirements, bye bye Hyatt and have status with Bonvoy, Hilton, and IHG to fall back on.

  12. I had a recent park hyatt sydney stay on an award. It was a total waste of points. I asked for an upgrade to a room with a view snd they charged me $100 aud and upgraded me to a room that had a view of a street and some construction. I would have been better of saving the points and paying for a room at the sheraton which i found to be better.

  13. If you are sure the room shows up online, why not just tell them you aren’t leaving the front desk until they upgrade you or give you a satisfactory explanation. You force their hand at that point, either they have to give it to you or hypothetically call the police to ask them to escort you out of the hotel for trespassing. The hotel likely wants to avoid a Dr. Dao type incident. The hotel likely wants to avoid a “scene” at the front desk, which might unnerve some of their other guests. So the premise would be they will give you what you want, eventually to a void a Dr. Dao type situation escalating at the front desk in front of all the guests that they have.

    I find most business travelers are too nervous to really escalate something even if the traveler is absolutely correct and the hotel is playing games with inventory management.

    They know most people, to avoid confrontation, will just walk away even if they have 20 suites available; so they get away with this.

  14. DAYflier here. Parlor suite is my terminology for a suite where there’s a separate bedroom and a living area. Sometimes I hear the term “junior suite” thrown around, but I think it’s a little less precise.

    I believe the property refers to what I’m in as the “Caribbean Suite.”

  15. As a Titanium I’ve almost always received the best non-suite room type if I don’t receive a suite, which suits me just fine. My greatest success this year was an upgrade to the Presidential Suite (albeit for a one night stay) at the Rome Marriott Park Hotel , so some hotels are providing upgrades when available. What seems frustrating here is that the hotel is trying to sell something the member shouldn’t have to buy. Unfortunately, it appears suite upgrades at Marriott are property specific when I thought the purpose of the Bonvoy program was to have consistent benefits at least across each brand.

  16. Marriott is a dishonorable company. That’s the bottom line. Greed, disloyalty to customers and incompetence is the theme now. Stories like the JW in Summerlin are commonplace. I had the same situation at the Sheraton in New Orleans two weeks ago. Shame on them.

  17. All of the hotel companies play games, just as all the major airline companies play games. However, not every employee has been co-opted and we should not assume such has occurred.

    I’m elite with Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, and IHG. With my Marriott Titanium in 2019 within the USA, I’ve received upgrades to the Presidential Suite in one Ritz Carlton and a top floor balcony suite for a week in a second Ritz Carlton, all based on my elite status on FREE stays (with my family along, so the timing was perfect).

    Yes, Hyatt, Hilton, and IHG all treat me well. Everyone treats me better in Asia. IT and customer service help lines can be frustrating at times, but I find most people are at least trying to be helpful and I understand their pressures. Still, despite the occasional agonies, hotels treat me pretty well overall and I am grateful.

    There are many legitimate travel-related problems and I’ve had my share and then some. Yet, most can be resolved amicably without legal and DYKWIA threats. I often wish we as a society could return to some magical past land of civility and decency.

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