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Research your hotel abroad: If your room has A/C, it may come with a fee

Aug. 15, 2022
6 min read
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In Europe, it’s been a summer travel season unlike any in recent memory. There has been a resurgence in international trips as well as accompanying meltdowns at airports and with luggage. On top of that, travelers have also run into unprecedented heat waves.

The temperatures — which have eclipsed 100 degrees Fahrenheit and set records in parts of Europe — have complicated travel further. The weather has also given travelers a harsh, or at least hot, reminder: Not all hotels (or rental properties) in Europe have air conditioning. Unfortunately, some travelers probably did not make this discovery until their arrival in Europe.

Many hotels have lagged a bit in restoring their amenities to pre-pandemic levels, even as hotel fees have remained in place. We’ve even heard reports of guests being charged for air conditioning as an amenity.

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A woman holds an umbrella to shield herself from the sun amid intense heat in London on July 18, 2022. (Photo by Rasid Necati Aslim/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Yes, your hotel may charge you for A/C

Last month TPG examined the importance of taking a good, hard look at the listed amenities at your hotel or rental property before a stay, particularly when traveling abroad. In some cases, you might see that air conditioning is specifically listed. In many cases, you won’t.

Shortly after, a tweet from Forbes Travel Editor Caroline Lupini caught our attention. Lupini posted about a hotel stay she had in the European Union.

The hotel, which she did not identify publicly, charged her 10 euros ($10.20) per night for air conditioning, she said.

“I’d have been fine to pay the 10€ if I had known about it up front,” Lupini wrote on Twitter July 30. “Feels like a bit of a bait & switch to have it listed as an amenity but not actually included.”

Keep in mind, at times when the dollar has been far weaker against the euro, such a charge could have amounted to as much as $12 or $13 per day. Luckily, since the dollar has gained strength against the euro, the charge wasn't inflated.

In any case, Lupini is not alone.

We heard from numerous readers in our TPG Lounge on Facebook when we asked if anyone had a similar experience getting charged for air conditioning.

“Several times in Mediterranean countries in locations where A/C is not the norm,” Doug Wooley said.

Kathy Busch caught the surprise charge before she went through with booking a stay at a hotel in London. “I noticed there was the ‘room’ and the ‘premier room,'” she wrote. “The difference? Premier came with A/C.”

“All over southeast Asia,” Josh Nolff added, speaking of his travels. “If you pay for the A/C, they give you the remote.”

Fortunately, air conditioning was free during my stay at a major U.S. hotel brand in London, and it was working well upon arrival to my room — if anything, I had to turn it down a bit!

The thermostat was set to 21 degrees Celsius, or 69 degrees Farenheit, when I got to my room in London earlier this month. (Photo by Sean Cudahy/The Points Guy)

Based on the traveler feedback, it seems charges for air conditioning (or lack of air conditioning) are more common at independent European hotels, as opposed to major hotel chain properties at which U.S. travelers tend to use points.

At the same time, travel experts say it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Why this happens abroad

The reason so many hotels in Europe don’t have air conditioning comes down to a matter of climate, says Dr. Karthik Namasivayam, professor and department chair of the School of Hospitality Business at Michigan State University’s Broad College of Business.

As an expert studying the global hotel industry — and with the bonus of having lived in Europe for three years — Namasivayam says historically, the temperatures haven’t made this appliance-turned-amenity a necessity for many properties.

“The general standards in Europe are [to not have] air conditioning because the temperature’s never been so extreme as it is this summer,” he told TPG. “So many don’t have it installed at all.”

While Namasivayam said he’s never personally been charged an extra fee explicitly for air conditioning, he’s not surprised to hear properties might levy such a charge.

“The property or hotel would have to undertake additional efforts to [install] the A/C, so they’re probably going to pass at least some of the cost onto the consumer,” he explained.

Adding air conditioning on a large scale would be an expensive undertaking for hotels, Namasivayam said. There’s also a question of whether temperatures in future summer seasons will make it necessary, which of course is a question that relates directly to global warming trends.

“If this is a one-off,” Namasivayam said of this summer’s heat, “perhaps the hotels are not going to respond to it. But if the climate issue continues — as many expect it will — and [the hotels] see a growing trend, I suspect they’ll either have to retrofit it, which is very expensive or with new properties getting established, it will [be installed].”

(Photo by Catherine Falls Commercial/Getty Images)

Bottom line

Since air conditioning is generally an “anomaly from the norm” at hotels in Europe, guests should be especially thorough in researching A/C options and any related fees before booking, Namasivayam says.

Keep in mind, if you’re staying seven nights and paying 10 euros per night, you could end up forking over an extra $70 just for cool air.

Like with all international trips, particularly as travel has hit one unexpected snag after another this summer, extra research could go a long way toward eliminating those unpleasant surprises during your travels.

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

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  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
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