A perfect Paris vacation foiled by a flagging flap — what can I do?

By | October 15th, 2012

It was supposed to be a special trip for Alana Pitts and her father to celebrate his birthday in Paris. They’d made reservations at the Hilton Arc De Triomphe hotel in Paris back in June, using his HHonors points, and selected a special room on the executive floor with two queen-size beds.

But just a few weeks before leaving, Pitts’ father received some bad news by chance.

“My father called Hilton to ask whether we would receive free internet access in our room,” she says. “[A representative] informed him that Hilton no longer owned the hotel and that they would be moving us to another Hilton property outside of Paris — either Hilton La Defense, or Trianon Palace in Versailles.”

In other words, that perfect Paris getaway would not be happening.

“Both of these hotels are very far from where we planned to stay,” she adds. “As our trip is just two weeks away, we were shocked and upset to hear the news and were surprised that we weren’t provided any notice. My father had to call Hilton in order for Hilton to give the news.”

Pitts and her father are caught in the middle of a reflagging — a common event in the hotel industry. Hilton didn’t want to lose this hotel, which was its leading Paris property, but it was stripped of the right to call it a Hilton after a lengthy court battle with the property’s owners.

Chances are, Hilton was as unprepared for the reflagging as the Pitts. It may still be in denial that the Arc De Triomphe property is no longer in Hilton’s portfolio.

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But what’s the fix? Hilton offered to rebook the family at a “comparable” hotel in Paris.

My father told Hilton that he was not satisfied with having to move to the other hotels.

The reason we booked the Hilton Arc De Triomphe Hotel was because of its central location within the city of Paris. We also chose the hotel for the two queen beds to accommodate three adults and his earned Executive Lounge access.

Neither of the hotel options have rooms with that setup — most would require a rollaway cot or pull-out couch, which no one wants to sleep on for a week-and-a-half-long trip.

The Pitts could always ask for their miles back and try to find another hotel. But even though it’s October, rates remain high.

“We started looking for other comparable hotels within central Paris, but with just two weeks until our trip, we are only finding exorbitant nightly rates,” she told me.

Ideally, Hilton would give the family the room it had originally promised them. And if it no longer owns the hotel, then it should pay the hotel. After all, a deal’s a deal, right?

But reflaggings are anything but simple. I’ve seen loyalty reservations get lost and reservations not honored in the wake of a rebranding. This one looks messier than most.

On the one hand, Pitts’ agreement was with Hilton and its HHonors program, and I don’t need to check the slippery HHonors contract to know that Hilton can drop this reservation whenever it wants to, and for whatever reason.

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But on the other hand, isn’t a reservation a contract to offer a room at a given rate? And didn’t Hilton enter that agreement by accepting Pitts’ points when he made the reservation at the soon-to-be reflagged hotel in Paris?

I’m not sure whether there’s anything I can do to make Hilton sweeten the deal. I imagine there are hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of other guests in similar circumstances, and they are making adjustments to their schedule to accommodate a surprise court ruling.

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