If you think the airline industry doesn’t do anything right, think again.
A few weeks ago, Brian Crummy had to pay for the same night twice at two different hotels.
The reason: His plans changed, and the rate he’d booked was completely non-refundable and non-changeable, even when he waved his diamond elite card at the receptionist.
“They would not budge,” says Crummy, a sales manager from Gilbert, Ariz. “I feel like the hotels bank on me taking the advance-purchase rate to save money, in hopes that my plans change and they can cash in.”
Are airlines any better? Well, kinda.
Had Crummy changed his mind within 24 hours of making his reservation, he could have received a full refund on his airline ticket, as long as it was a week or more before his departure.
Even if it wasn’t, he could have asked for — and received — a ticket credit, minus a $200 change fee.
I know, I know. Not the fairest comparison.
True, many hotels still offer customer-friendly policies, including the ability to cancel a room without penalty, often until 6 p.m. on the day of arrival.
But times are changing. The 6 p.m. deadline is sliding up to 4 p.m. for a lot of hotels, and budget properties are offering modest discounts in exchange for the room being completely non-refundable, often with poor dis-closure.
The result: I’m being inundated by complaints from readers who say hotels aren’t playing fair. They want them to be more like airlines, in a limited way. For a non-refundable stay, should hotels offer a courtesy cancellation window and a room credit, when plans change?
Of course they should.
Why don’t they? The hotel argues that allowing any of these practices would cost it money, and it almost certainly would. The way a hotel sees it, it’s offering a discount of up to 20% in exchange for making your room completely non-refundable. In exchange, guests accept the risk that their plans might change and that they will forfeit the entire room charge.
“I don’t think it’s fair for the customer to have it both ways,” says Glenn Haussman, editor in chief of Hotel Interactive, a hotel industry trade publication.
“They have a choice allowing them to cancel up to the same day in many cases, and by offering a credit, for example, the industry is just asking for customers to always book rooms at lower rates, which, in turn, would erode industry profits.”
That may be accurate, but airlines used the same argument — that allowing a cancellation within a day of making a booking would hurt earnings — before the Transportation Department in 2011 imposed the 24-hour rule. Since then, industry profits have soared.
How about a room credit? Should a hotel just be able to keep all your money, as it did for Crummy, especially if his accommodations can be resold?
Not every room can be rebooked, particularly for resorts in remote locations or that have long lengths of stays or during the week of a festival, for example.