Thursday, August 6, 2015

Hilton's "No Blackout Dates" Promise - What's it really worth?

UPDATE:  The stealth blackout has just lifted.  Here's what the Conrad St. James' award calendar currently looks like:

And that availability extends throughout the summer.  So, despite Hilton's Guarantee, the St. James went from not having one single night available at the standard award level to having every single night available.  For what it's worth, Hilton's call center was also reporting that every single superior room was booked when I checked a month or so ago.  Unless the Sultan of Brunei had booked all the "Superior" rooms to house his entourage during the summer and just decided to cancel, something hinky was going on.

Hilton is very proud of the fact that their frequent guest program, Hilton Honors, has "no blackout dates."

Says Hilton: "Fact: If there’s a standard room available at any Hilton Family hotel or resort worldwide, you can redeem points for it. No exceptions, no fine print. It’s that simple."

That's a pretty solid guarantee, right?  Except that it's not always that simple.  Right now I'm trying to book a two-night stay at the Conrad St. James for a trip to London next spring.  At the St. James, the "standard" level room is the King Superior Room, which goes for 80,000 points per night.  You'd think that availability would be pretty decent almost ten months out, right?  Well, you'd be wrong.  Here's what the St. James' calendar currently looks like:

That's right.  According to Hilton, every single Superior room at the St. James is booked from May 9 to July 24, nearly three solid months.  While it's possible that this is true, it seems unlikely that there wouldn't be one single night available for a standard points redemption.  I suspect that the St. James, which is new to the Hilton brand, may be trying to protect it's high season revenue by blocking their Superior rooms, thus  effectively blocking points bookings.  Or maybe it's all just an innocent mistake.  Or maybe some company has booked every standard room for a three month conference.  Or maybe the moon is made of green cheese.  Anyway, I've reached out to Hilton via e-mail with no results.  I'll try Twitter next.

Sure, I could spend an extra 92,000 points per night for a "Premium Room Reward" in a King Deluxe Room.  But that's a horrible value for a room that only runs around £50 more per night than the Superior rooms (approx. £350 vs. £400).

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