Why cut your frequent flier program and face public humiliation, as US Airways did last week, when you can quietly chip away the value of your awards in relative private?That’s what Starwood Hotels, which owns the Four Points, Sheraton and W brands, must have been thinking when they announced changes to their rewards program yesterday.The announcement began harmlessly enough, as these announcements always do:
To help you maximize your Starpoints, we wanted you to be aware of our annual award chart update taking place on March 4, 2008.
Ah, maximizing Starpoints. Who wouldn’t want that? But it soon becomes apparent that Starwood isn’t talking about your maximization, but its own.
On a yearly basis we adjust our award categories based on each hotel’s average annual room rate for that year. Among our most popular hotels for Free Night redemption, only a handful are moving this year. However, if you are thinking of using your Starpoints for a getaway we suggest you view the upcoming changes to decide if you should book now or wait until after March 4, 2008. To see which hotels are moving categories, click here.
Reader Jonathan Yarmis isn’t sure how “routine” Starwood’s devaluation is. And he’s not pleased with the changes.
Talk about inflation. A quick perusal of the changes shows 9 hotels whose category declined and I would estimate 10 times as many that increased in category. I didn’t count the increases nor did I do any analysis of the pattern but this inequity jumped out at me. They’re not changing the redemption rates, they just change how they categorize the hotels. Pretty sneaky.
Sneaky, yes. And brilliant. Instead of a large and public cut, which seems to be the preferred method of devaluation used by the airline industry, Starwood is whittling away the value of its program incrementally. Almost so slowly that practically no one will bother noticing.Is this a model for airlines to follow?Why not? If it can prevent another PR disaster, it’s worth a try.