Just a few weeks ago I published a mini-review rating the free Internet offerings of major hotel chains. In it I gave Hilton the lowest score, just one “bar” out of five, for continuing to offer free WiFi to only its Gold and Diamond members. That means some elite members are still paying!
Fortunately Hilton has followed in the footsteps of many competitors. Unfortunately it is clearly doing the minimum necessary to avoid being singled out.
Free premium WiFi for Diamond HHonors members in Q2 of 2015
For example, other programs have given their existing elite members free premium WiFi in order to show that this is an across-the-board improvement for all guests. But Hilton is only giving free premium WiFi to Diamond members. Gold members will continue to receive basic WiFi, with Silver and Blue (non-elite) HHonors members added to the list.
Free basic WiFi for Silver and Blue HHonors members in August 2015
Furthermore, the rollout will be slow. Expect to wait six months before these new elite tiers get access to free WiFi. People who don’t have a Hilton HHonors membership will still be left out, but that’s not unusual. Only Hyatt offers free WiFi to all guests regardless of status or booking method.
Must book through a preferred channel
Finally, anyone who wants free WiFi must book through Hilton or one of its preferred partners. From FlyerTalk, these are described as:
- The Hilton HHonors mobile app
- Online from hilton.com, HHonors.com, or any of our brand/hotel websites
- Calling Hilton Reservations Customer Care: 1-800-HHonors or your local Hilton reservations office
- Calling an individual hotel (plus walk-ins and physical on-property too)
- Via corporate travel agencies and travel professionals that book via a Hilton proprietary channel
I think it’s great that there are many channels available, not just online bookings (Starwood excludes phone bookings for whatever reason), but it means that some people could be left out if they book through a non-approved channel. I think it’s also unclear how those channels are defined, and whether they include online travel agencies like Expedia and Priceline. For example, I’ve booked Hotwire rates in the past and received free Internet as a Gold elite. Would I be ineligible if I tried that now? Some commenters on FlyerTalk mention that these OTAs were always excluded, but the free WiFi worked anyway — I never saw that, so I can’t say for sure. But with all the other changes it seems possible that new oversight would reduce the number who slip past.
In conclusion, I think Hilton has done enough to earn itself two bars out of five, but this is still a long way from a competitive policy change. Many competing programs have gone further and implemented their changes faster.
Many smaller chains, even full-service hotels, also offer free Internet access and have done so for a long time. Although this older review of free WiFi policies hasn’t been updated, much of the information is still current.