Hotel cancellation policies matter.
Imagine everything that might crop up at the last minute to prevent you from checking in as planned for your next hotel stay. Airline flights get cancelled. Kid get sick. You get sick. The boss decides to reschedule the sales meeting.
Which is why the industry standard policy allows travelers paying most rates to cancel their hotel reservations even on the day of arrival, without penalty. Soon, however, that policy won’t be nearly as standard as it is today.
Beginning on January 1, 2015, Hilton will no longer allow same-day penalty-free cancellations. Travelers must cancel their bookings by 11:59 p.m. on the day prior to their scheduled arrival, or they’ll be charged for the first night.
According to the company’s announcement on FlyerTalk, “We’re making this change so that we can provide you with a more consistent booking process and make more rooms available for when you need last minute travel accommodations.”
That alleged consumer benefit is overwhelmingly outweighed by the financial harm that will result from the change. The real beneficiary here is clearly Hilton, which will realize a nice revenue boost as a result of the stricter policy.
And that may just be the beginning. It could well be that Hilton’s longer-term plan is to turn around and offer penalty-free same-day cancellations again, but for an extra fee or as part of a “special” (read “pricier”) promotional rate. That would be entirely in keeping with the travel industry’s current zeal for deconstructing travel services and imposing surcharges for the component parts.
If the flexibility of same-day cancellations is important to you—and it certainly beats the alternative, all things being equal—it will still be available from the other major hotel chains, until they too succumb to the temptation to put the company’s bottom line above the best interests of their customers.
Reader Reality Check
Will this be a difference-maker to you when choosing a hotel next year?
This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.
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