What Can I Do to Increase My Odds of Getting a Platinum Suite Upgrade?
"Reader Questions" are answered twice a week by TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Ethan Steinberg.
While bonus points and lounge access are nice, the most eye-grabbing benefit of top-tier hotel elite status is definitely getting suite upgrades. Depending on when and where you're traveling, you could enjoy these on a regular basis or find them surprisingly hard to get. TPG reader Yin wants to know if she can do anything to increase her odds ...
[pullquote source="TPG READER YIN"]I'll be getting Marriott Platinum status after my current stay. For the future, is there anything I can do to increase my odds of an upgrade?[/pullquote]
Hilton, Hyatt and Marriott all include complimentary space-available suite upgrades at the time of check-in as a perk for their top-tier elites. Note that this doesn't mean you're guaranteed a suite upgrade on any trip, as this benefit is subject to availability.
There are certainly a few things you can do to increase your odds, such as trying to travel off-season and staying at hotels that are less likely to be full (so don't get your hopes up for a New Year's upgrade in New York, for example). You can also do some digging before you book and figure out how many suites the property has to begin with. At the JW Marriott Shanghai, more than 25% of the rooms in the hotel are suites. While not all of them will be made available for upgrades, I like those odds. The terms of most hotel loyalty programs reference upgrades to "standard" suites, so don't go in thinking you're entitled to a two-story presidential penthouse.
A little bit of knowledge can go a long way. The day of check-in, before you arrive at the hotel, do a quick search and see if they're still selling suites for that night (and for the whole duration of your stay). When I go to check in as a Marriott Platinum Premier elite, I usually wait to see what, if any, upgrade I'll be offered proactively. If I'm not upgraded to a suite, I'll put on my nicest smile and ask if the hotel "has any suite upgrades available for a Platinum Premier elite member" which usually does the trick. Remember that being polite and flexible as opposed to demanding will always get you further in the hospitality industry.
If you're traveling for a very special occasion, a phone call or email to the general manger couldn't hurt. You might get a suite upgrade, or you might get some other surprise like a free bottle of Champagne or a comped meal. Just remember these managers get dozens of emails like this every day, and if you overuse this option you'll ruin its value for yourself and others.
Confirm In Advance
Hyatt Globalist and Marriott Platinum (and Platinum Premier) elites have the option to confirm some suite upgrades in advance. Hyatt Globalists get 4 suite upgrade certificates, which can be used on paid or award stays of up to 7 nights. They expire one year from the date of issue, and you must book and complete your travel by that date.
Marriott elites who stay 50 nights in a year get the ability to select a choice benefit, and a second one upon reaching 75 nights. The best choice for most travelers will be the 5 suite night awards (SNAs), or 10 a year if you earn 75-night Platinum Premier status. With these awards, Marriott will begin looking for a suite upgrade for you five days before your arrival. You can select which of the available suite categories you'd like to be upgraded to, and the upgrades will be returned to your account if they don't clear. These are great for popular properties that might be out of suites by the time you check in, or to lock in a higher category of suite than you'd otherwise be upgraded to. I just used my SNAs for the first time and was able to clear an upgrade into a 1,200-square-foot terrace suite at the Sheraton Grand Sydney, a much better room than I would have expected at check-in.
Suite upgrades straddle the fine line between entitlement and surprise and delight. Like with an airline ticket, if you need more space you should book it outright and not rely on upgrades to get you there. That being said, a little bit of research, a friendly smile and some well-timed upgrade certificates can literally unlock the door to some of the best rooms a hotel has to offer.