Summing up InterContinental’s view on award stays in one sentence

*Gets on first-world-problems pulpit*

I love being an InterContinental Royal Ambassador. It’s quite possibly my favorite top tier status. As a Hyatt Diamond and Starwood Platinum I feel like I’m usually treated like a United 1K, while as an InterContinental Royal Ambassador I feel like I’m treated like a Global Services member. That’s not a jab at Hyatt or Starwood — the fact is, they have a lot of top tier elite members.

Maybe it’s the fact that Royal Ambassador is an “invitation only” elite tier, or maybe it’s the fact that there are fewer InterContinentals, which means there are fewer people qualifying for elite status with them.

At least that’s how they treat you. Most of the time.

My one major frustration with InterContinental is that they don’t honor elite benefits on award stays. Gary has written about this several times, including here and here. As Gary always says, “I am not my rate,” and I couldn’t agree more with that — if you’re supposedly a “guest” of a hotel brand, you should be treated based on your overall loyalty to the chain and not your value to the company on a single transaction.

This is especially true on award stays. You earned those points through your loyalty to the chain, and it’s a bit of a slap in the face to essentially say “you’re one of our most valued customers… except when you redeem points that you earned from us for your stay.” And this is probably why every other major hotel chain honors elite benefits on award stays.

But the real reason I’m making this post now is because I stumbled upon a post on FlyerTalk that couldn’t sum up the issue any better. A FlyerTalk member emailed the InterContinental Melbourne and asked whether they would honor Royal Ambassador benefits on an award stay (because some hotels do, and some don’t). Their response?

When booking on the points no benefits will apply as by using the points that is a benefit in itself.

I couldn’t have summed up the chain’s view of award redemptions any better myself…

I have a lot of Priority Club points, but I’m scared to redeem them. Some hotels honor elite benefits, but often it’s as a courtesy or “one time exception.” I don’t want the hotels to have to do me a favor by letting me use my hard earned points for stays with them. But unless they change their policy, that’s how it’ll continue to be.

*Gets off first-world-problems pulpit*

Filed Under: Awards, Hotels
  1. Just wondering what exactly is wrong with using points without receiving benefits? It’s a different value proposition of course, but since they are up-front about it you can simply make your value judgement based upon the default assumption of no benefit.

  2. The airlines do this too to some extent (upgrades not applicable on award travel, or if they’re applicable the priority is lower). What’s your take on that?

  3. @ Sean — You’re right, they are up front about it, so I can’t fault them for it in that sense. However, every other hotel chain offers full benefits on award stays. To me those hotel chains are acknowledging that stays on points aren’t “free,” but rather rewards for our loyalty.

    By InterContinental being the only major chain that’s holding out, they’re sending the opposite message with their stubbornness, in my opinion.

    So if no hotels offered elite benefits on award stays there wouldn’t be an issue. But how expensive would it be for them to honor elite benefits on award stays, especially when chain after chain has added this benefit.

  4. @ Matt — With the exception of Delta this is indeed consistently the case. That being said, this doesn’t just apply to award stays, but often also to low fare buckets. Many airlines only allow upgrades for certain fare classes, and that’s the norm.

    I’d say the difference is that hotels are in the hospitality industry. When you stay at a hotel you’re a “guest.” However, I think the airline industry cares much more about any single transaction — you’re a customer, not a “guest.”

    That being said, they do still honor *most* elite benefits on award tickets — lounge access, exit row seating, premium check-in and security lines, etc.

  5. The main problem I have with this, is that if one is accustomed to being a RA guest at the hotel, ie staying there tens of times as an RA guest and being upgraded etc., then it would certainly make for a miserable experience using points and getting a basic room with no benefits at all. Would make me not want to use the points at all, which would make we question why I was accumulating them in the first place….

  6. As a PC Plat I was very impressed by the HH Gold benefits on an award stay including upgraded room on exec floor, lounge access and breakfast, free laundry, and in-room wi-fi compared to an “upgrade” to a higher floor on a PC points redemption.

  7. This is what happens to me…I make an early res using PC points, then end up cancelling, and using SPG, Hilton, or Hyatt pts instead.

  8. That would be a significant deterrent for me, not that I’m about to be invited to RA anytime soon but I think it’s very stingy.

  9. The flaw in their argument is that a non-RA or non Amabassador can still redeem PCR points for Intercontinental stays. I don’t have to be an RA to be staying on points. So how is the award stay a benefit of *being an RA* in and of itself?

  10. As an ambassador, I agree this is really frustrating and Intercon should review this. If they have space for an upgrade, give it, if they have an exec club, what’s the incremental cost per person? You spend the money and get used to a level of comfort when you travel for biz, then go on vacation with your wife and are treated like a first-time user, it makes no sense. I’ve gotten lucky in ROM, but had to ask a couple of folks, whihc again, when you’re traveling with family, makes it a negative experience

  11. The way I see is that the airlines (in this case though I will specifically talk from UAs standpoint) extend most benefits to their elite members when on award tickets, except the opportunity for upgrades. In a sense the cost of the upgrade is built in to the benefits you received at being an elite member. If you were only earning points by flying you would earn 2X RDM/BIS as a 1P, 1K, or GS which would allow you to redeem a premium cabin award ticket in half as many flights as a GM.

    I can kind of see where the hotel would be coming from at a room perspective although I am not saying that it is a good policy to completely eliminate all benefits. They give you more points so that you can redeem more points in the same period of timey to get a larger room. The flip side of this would be to earn the same number of points as a regular member and leaving the regular upgrade benefits in tact.

  12. Yup…that’s the one flaw. At least you will be able to get a Saturday reservation using your points. Mere mortals do not at Intercons. Better use your points quickly its is getting about that time for a devaluation. Cheers!

  13. @ john — As a Royal Ambassador you get a room upgrade, guaranteed 8AM check-in and 4PM check-out, free internet, free minibar, a welcome gift, and a few other benefits.

  14. @ AdamH — Totally agree, though the only issue is that as far as I know, there’s no way to redeem for premium rooms using Priority Club points. Furthermore, comparing this to airlines, they could then offer all benefits except upgrades, which they don’t do either.

  15. Though the redemption rate is ruinous, this pernicious policy by IC makes their “Any Hotel, Any Time” redemptions more interesting. I’d rather use Venture Miles to pay for the rate and get status than use PC points and get no recognition.

  16. Why would you be scared to redeem them? I’ll let you in on a secret – I’ve never been an RA and I always get excellent service from IC properties. I’d bet you manage just fine when you stay at other properties that don’t have a minibar and don’t upgrade you. A room is simply a place to sleep, particularly on a one night stay. And a free room is even better!

    I understand the principle at stake, but don’t let that keep you from enjoying your points, which we all know are slowly depreciating.

  17. I really value elite benefits on AWARD stays as I redeem at high end hotels/resorts. I really enjoy having nice breakfast (in addition to other benefits) which can run excess of $100 for the family of four at many of hotels we stayed during the past vacation. The lack such benefits stopped me from considering staying IC even though I’m a PC Platinum.

  18. Coins, I read somewhere that one of the airlines will offer upgrades on award tix.

    <no relation to the above DanH.

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