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Hilton’s Free Wi-Fi Comes with Strings

When it comes to a policy on free in-room Wi-Fi, Hilton’s motto would seem to be “Better late than never.”

The pressure from travelers to make at least basic Wi-Fi available for free for hotel guests has been building for years. And the larger hotel chains have already honored consumers’ wishes, albeit grudgingly and sometimes with more or less onerous conditions attached.

Free W-Fi has been available to members the IHG Rewards program throughout the InterContinental network of hotels for more than a year now.

Loews Hotels followed suit, but with an even more generous policy: free Wi-Fi for all hotel guests, whether they were members of the company’s loyalty program or not.

Marriott dragged its corporate feet until January of this year to make free Wi-Fi available to all members of its Rewards program, and then only if they booked their stays directly through Marriott channels.

A month ago, Starwood copied Marriott’s policy: free Wi-Fi for Preferred Guest members, but only for stays booked direct with Starwood.

Also in February, Hyatt implemented its refreshingly restriction-free Wi-Fi policy: free for all guests, whether they are Gold Passport members or not, and whether they book direct or not.

By waiting, Hilton not only made a few extra dollars by keeping its Wi-Fi fees in place longer, it also gave itself extra time to assess the competitive landscape before responding. Which of its competitors’ policies would it copy; or would it go its own way, with an approach as yet unseen?

The answer was announced this week on FlyerTalk:

  • Our most loyal guests, Diamond members, will receive complimentary premium Wi-Fi beginning in the second quarter this year at all of our properties when they book directly through a proprietary Hilton channel or via one of our corporate travel partners.
  • Starting in August, we will extend complimentary standard Wi-Fi access to Blue and Silver members when they book their stays directly through a proprietary Hilton channel or one of our corporate travel partners.
  • Complimentary standard Wi-Fi will continue to be a benefit for HHonors Gold members who also book directly through our proprietary Hilton channels or one of our corporate travel partners.
  • Booking directly through a proprietary Hilton channel one of our corporate travel partners:
    • The Hilton HHonors mobile app
    • Online from,, 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
  • This update doesn’t apply to hotels where there is a resort charge.
  • In short, rather than emulating the free-for-all availability offered by Loews and Hyatt, Hilton chose to copy the restrictive approach of Marriott and Starwood, limiting free access to loyalty-program members whose bookings are made direct with Hilton.

    Reader Reality Check

    Just how free should free Wi-Fi be?

    This article originally appeared on

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