I’ve had some excellent suite upgrades through the years at Starwood properties. In both 2011 and 2012, I stayed more than 50 nights, so I earned 10 Suite Night Awards (SNA) each year. Each of those expire at the end of 2013.
My first confirmed Suite Night Award, at The Laguna, Bali
I’ve also had a fair number of upgrades since the implementation of this program (as well as before) without having to use SNA at all. I’ve even had a few cases of where I attempted to use an upgrade, but it was never confirmed, but I ended up with an upgrade anyway. I received great upgrades despite applying an SNA but it not clearing in advance at both the St. Regis Princeville and the Westin San Francisco Airport.
Junior Suite with a balcony at the St. Regis Princeville
The way the system works is that SNA’s can be applied at any time after booking, but the ability for the upgrade to be confirmed only begins 5 days prior to arrival. They can be used for paid or points stays. From 5 days out, the system will automatically check for upgrade space and provide updates via email. If space is open, the upgrade will be confirmed. If the upgrade cannot be confirmed by 2PM local time the day before arrival, the SNA will be returned to the owner’s account and an email is sent to provide the status. If an upgrade is confirmed, the request cannot be reversed without cancelling the reservation.
I don’t typically apply these upgrades for short stays on business trips, or at properties where I don’t think the upgrade will be interesting or worthwhile. I’d obviously prefer to use them when traveling with my wife on vacation, so I guess we should take more! Unfortunately, I’ve had such a hard time using them, that I am now applying them for every SPG stay just so they don’t go to waste. Even when requested, the SNA often do not clear, so I’m not sure how much this new system helps in terms of ‘confirming’ these upgrades in advance as opposed to the old system of upgrading based on availability at check in. This is still supposed to occur, and often does.
Sadly, this is pretty common, an upgrade that cannot be confirmed.
I’m generally a happy Starwood customer (and SPG Lifetime Gold), and certainly will continue to stay at their properties as my primary hotel chain. Having said that, I think this upgrade scheme needs some work. Kevin shared his similar frustrations with the Starwood upgrade policy as well. I agree with him in that Starwood hotels themselves seem to have too much leeway. The upgrade policy is a global thing, but despite that, upgrades can still be up to the agent at check in. I think this new system is an improvement, and it addresses some of the issues that Kevin mentions, but it still needs work.
Starwood seems to really be an innovator among the hotel loyalty programs. They were the first program to include suites as free upgrades for members of their loyalty program. SPG also removed capacity controls from award stays. They introduced cash and points as an option for redemption. These are all great benefits the many other programs have picked up on. I hope they come up with a new system for confirmed suite upgrades.
I also maintain Hyatt Diamond status, which includes 4 suite upgrades, each of which can be used on paid rates for up to a week, and can be confirmed at booking. I plan to compare the Hyatt and Starwood confirmed upgrade policies in a future post.
What has your experience been with Starwood Suite Night Awards? Have you has as many problems as I have?