The end of complimentary upgrades? Hilton to sell room upgrades to Gold and Diamond elites
There's more upgrade drama for Hilton Honors Gold and Diamond elite members.
As of Monday, the 7,000-property hotel megachain began selling paid upgrades to Gold and Diamond members during mobile check-in. This news was first reported by View from the Wing.
Earlier this year, Hilton piloted these same paid app-based upgrades for general and Silver members. Now, Gold and Diamond members will also be offered paid upgrades as an option when checking in with the Hilton Honors app. However, complimentary room upgrades are a benefit of Gold and Diamond status.
Hilton has told its properties that mobile check-in paid room upgrades are "intended to drive incremental revenue." Hilton room upgrades are completely at the individual property's discretion, as the Hilton Honors terms do not require hotels to upgrade any elite members, even when rooms are available.
Additionally, Hilton will start processing elite upgrades at Hampton Inn and Hilton Garden Inn properties Nov. 18. In the past, these brands — along with Embassy Suites, Homewood Suites, Home2 Suites, Hilton Grand Vacations and Motto — have been ineligible for elite upgrades. But again, these upgrades are processed at the hotel's discretion.
Related: How to redeem Hilton points for upgraded rooms
What could happen to Hilton Gold and Diamond upgrades
As mentioned, Hilton Honors Gold and Diamond members are eligible for what Hilton calls "space-available room upgrades." Gold members should receive upgrades up to executive-floor room types, while Diamond members should be given upgrades up to a one-bedroom suite.
I fear that most properties will effectively stop upgrading Gold and Diamond members unless a member pays for an upgrade. Since the terms of the Hilton Honors program do not require upgrades to be given on a complimentary basis, hotels have little incentive to provide upgrades. That's one of my major complaints about Diamond status.
When a hotel upgrades a guest, there are two primary considerations.
First, a guest who receives an upgrade takes that room out of inventory for a paying customer. Hotels always have to weigh upgrades with the possibility that a guest might pay full price for a suite at the last minute. If an upgraded guest has filled that suite, that could be a considerable amount of lost revenue.
Additionally, larger rooms take longer to clean and have higher maintenance costs, especially since hotels generally do their best to keep their suites in top condition.
So for these reasons, there's little reason to upgrade a Gold or Diamond guest unless, of course, the guest is paying something for the upgrade. And while it makes sense for the property, this could mean that Hilton elite status is facing a huge devaluation.
Related: Hilton snaps back to pre-pandemic elite status requirements for 2023
Ultimately, paid upgrades at the time of mobile check-in are a way for Hilton to monetize room upgrades, even though Gold and Diamond members can be given upgrades based on status.
About a year ago, Hilton started offering confirmed upgrades for elite members up to 72 hours before arrival. But this most recent development leads us to believe that complimentary Hilton upgrades will be less common, even for top-tier Diamond members.
Depending on how properties react to this change, the move to upsell hotel upgrades could be a huge devaluation for Hilton elite members.
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