"What to Expect When an Airline or Hotel Can't Provide Your Booked Stay or Flight" explores the scenarios in which airlines or hotels are unable to fulfill their bookings and the implications for travelers. Whether it's due to schedule changes, route cancellations, or property closures, these situations can leave travelers in need of alternative arrangements. The article examines the responsibilities of travel providers, including hotels honoring paid reservations after exiting loyalty programs and airlines offering rebooking options or refunds. It delves into the intricacies of various hotel loyalty programs and airlines' policies on schedule changes and cancellations. Additionally, the article touches on the topic of mistake rates and their impact on travelers. Ultimately, it looks at the ideal response from travel providers and the potential solutions that can help resolve such situations.
Travel providers’ responsibilities
When booking a flight or reserving a hotel, travelers have certain expectations that the travel providers will fulfill their bookings. However, there are instances when these expectations are not met. The responsibilities of travel providers, such as hotels and airlines, vary depending on the circumstances. In this article, we will explore the responsibilities of hotels and airlines in different scenarios and provide a comprehensive understanding of what travelers can expect from these providers.
Hotels can face various situations that may affect bookings, such as exiting a loyalty program, closing down, or not opening as expected. In these cases, hotels have certain responsibilities towards their customers. When a hotel fails to open or ceases operations, customers with existing bookings are usually contacted and provided with a refund or an offer for alternate lodging. Similarly, when a hotel exits a loyalty program, paid reservations are typically honored, but customers may not receive the elite benefits or earnings they expected when making the booking.
In the event that a hotel is unable to accommodate a guest at the last minute, the guest may be "walked" from the hotel and offered another place to stay. The policies regarding this can differ among hotel loyalty programs. For example, Marriott Bonvoy has an Ultimate Reservation Guarantee, which covers arrivals at participating properties that are unable to accommodate guests. If a property leaves the program, Marriott Bonvoy will make reasonable efforts to have the former property honor the reservation or assist in arranging equivalent accommodations nearby. However, there is no guarantee that any awards, upgrades, or other benefits associated with the loyalty program will be honored.
Similar to Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton Honors does not discuss a reservation guarantee in its terms and conditions. If a hotel within the Hilton Portfolio ceases to be a part of the portfolio, subsequent stays at that property will not be eligible to earn Hilton Honors Points. The World of Hyatt loyalty program also states that if a property ceases to operate as a Point Property, points will not be awarded for nights stayed at that property and points may not be redeemed for awards at such property. The IHG One Rewards program does not explicitly address these scenarios, but the terms reserve the right for IHG to alter its program at any time.
Overall, when a hotel exits a loyalty program, closes down, or fails to open, customers are not guaranteed significant accommodations or benefits. However, it is possible to seek a better resolution by contacting the loyalty program and inquiring about alternate options.
Similar to hotels, airlines also have responsibilities towards their customers when flight cancellations or significant delays occur. In these situations, airlines are expected to rebook passengers on alternative flights or provide compensation in the form of eCredits for future travel. If a flight is significantly delayed or canceled, passengers can request a refund for their ticket or be automatically rebooked on another flight by the airline.
Each airline has its own policies regarding flight changes and cancellations. For instance, Delta Air Lines states that if there is a flight cancellation or significant delay (more than 120 minutes), passengers will be rebooked on an alternative flight or their ticket will be converted to an eCredit. American Airlines allows passengers to request a refund to their original payment form if there is a schedule change of more than four hours or a schedule change of 90 minutes or more within 72 hours of the scheduled departure. United Airlines offers passengers the option to book another United or United Express flight for free if their flight's schedule changes by more than 30 minutes. If the departure or arrival times on a United flight change significantly or the passenger cannot be seated in the same cabin, they can also request a refund.
It is important to note that these policies may vary depending on whether the booking is made directly with the airline or through an online travel agency. Passengers who book through an online travel agency must work with the agency to make changes or request refunds.
What about mistake rates?
Mistake fares or mistake rates are a unique category of travel bookings. They occur when airlines mistakenly price fares significantly lower than usual or when hotel rooms are sold for significantly less than intended. In the case of mistake fares, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has established guidelines that require airlines to honor these fares. However, in 2015, the DOT introduced an interim policy allowing airlines to cancel mistaken fares under certain conditions, such as demonstrating that the fare was a mistake and refunding the purchase price of the ticket. Unfortunately, there are no specific guidelines on what constitutes a mistake fare or a time frame within which the airline must decide to cancel the fare.
For hotels, the terms and conditions of loyalty programs may allow them to cancel bookings that were sold for less than intended. For example, the IHG One Rewards program states that in the event of an erroneously published Reward Night point price, IHG reserves the right to cancel the booking and refund the points.
How travel providers should respond
In an ideal world, travel providers would respond to situations where they cannot provide the booked services in a traveler-friendly and common-sense manner. Hotels should offer alternative accommodations or options to guests if they close down or fail to open as scheduled. Loyalty programs should consider allowing customers to cancel their stays, switch to nearby properties at the same cost, or keep their existing reservations at departing properties without elite benefits. Airlines should strive to accommodate passengers on other flights, open up award availability, and provide flexibility in changing itineraries when cancellations or significant schedule changes occur.
Having elite status with an airline or hotel loyalty program can also be beneficial in these situations, as customers may receive greater support and flexibility due to their loyalty. Persistence and proactive communication with the travel provider can also lead to better outcomes.
In conclusion, travel providers have certain responsibilities towards their customers when they cannot provide the services they booked. However, the specific policies and actions vary among hotels and airlines. It is important for travelers to familiarize themselves with the terms and conditions of their bookings and to communicate with the travel providers to seek appropriate resolutions.