Hilton has been trialing a new Honors Diamond perk, confirmed suite upgrades. If Hilton adds the perk to their program permanently, Honors would be the hotel loyalty program to beat and Diamond status the best in the business.
The Missing Element
One glaring missing element in Hilton Honors is the lack of confirmable suites for top-tier guests. Diamond guests are given “Space Available Room Upgrades” up to one-bedroom suites, but without a guarantee in place and firm guidance, execution varies by property and staff.
Peer hotel chains have suite upgrades in some form with the exception of IHG, because they hate their elites. Starwood Preferred Guest had one of the best suite upgrade benefits before they sold their soul to Marriott. Suite Night Awards remain in the new “Bonvoy” program, though due to execution, many former SPG members have been saying “Bon Voyage” to Marriott, setting sail for Hilton and Hyatt.
Hilton shines at every other elite benefit but suite upgrades still lag behind, leaving Hyatt alone at the top. The Honors (formerly “Hhonors”) Diamond Status has an opportunity to close the gap.
For those interested in a short-cut to elite membership, credit cards offer an easy path. The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass card offers elite Gold membership (forgoing the requirement of staying 40 nights in a calendar year including free nights.) The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire card grants members Diamond status in the Hilton Honors program.
Both Gold members and Diamond Hilton Honors members include complimentary breakfast, but just Diamond elite members receive executive lounge access. Both status levels receive bonus points per dollar spent, with Diamond members achieving up to 20 points per dollar spent at hotels before any promotional bonuses.
Confirmed Suite Trial Program
Reports this week stated that Hilton has offered some “high value” customers Diamond Suite Upgrades (so nice to be able to type that again) with rules that suggest a more formalized program feature is to come. Like Hyatt’s Globalist Suite Upgrades, each certificate is valid for up to seven nights. Improved over Hyatt, they expire up to one year later which can extend to reservations outside of the status year.
The Points Guy confirmed the program is currently in the trial phase and upon successful completion, it will be folded into Diamond member benefits before the end of 2019. I asked (then) Vice President for Hilton Honors, Aaron Glick, about enforcement for the benefit which he described as a work in progress at the time.
Why This Feature Makes Honors Diamond The Best Hotel Status
Hilton already meets or beats every other elite program amongst the major hotel chains. For example, with award stays, the fifth night is free, the stay counts toward status, and resort fees are waived. Hilton elites are entitled to late checkout, they earn milestone bonuses and rollover nights; something Hyatt and Marriott fail to deliver.
Hilton offers breakfast to mid-tier (Gold) elites at all of their properties unlike Marriott’s “some here, some there, sometimes” approach for their Platinum elites and up across their 31 brands. Diamonds can also gift Diamond status (not a lower tier) to a designee after 100 elite nights per year and pool points with their family and friends.
Marriott’s approach has been reluctant at former SPG properties with the old program “Best available suite” for Platinum members, and happenstance in what they offer top-tier guests at namesake properties. Hyatt has been effective in their new addition suite policy but reigns supreme with their four confirmed suite upgrades for Globalists, each good for up to seven nights each. That’s up to 28 in total compared to the best possible comparison with SPG’s Suite Night Awards, where ten individual nights was the cap.
If Hilton were to offer this benefit across the brand, guests could confirm suites in lavish Waldorf-Astoria properties several times annually. As a long time Diamond eelite Hilton Honors member, I have been fortunate to routinely receive upgrades even at this high-end chain based on availability. However, adding the benefit eliminattes the risk of not upgrading, allows travelers to plan for their trip better and adds value to the guest in a way that upgrades at check-in cannot.
What About The Rest?
Hilton still offers the ability to qualify on either 30 stays or 60 nights for Diamond or simply by holding their most expensive credit card. Comparing that to the rest of the industry which only offers qualification via nights, Marriott requires at least 75 for a majority but not all of the benefits (100 nights for the closest tier level). Hyatt requires 60 and IHG requires 75 for practically none of the benefits because they hate their elites.
Hyatt is a close second if this policy comes into play, even if they offer fewer suite upgrades than Hilton. Why? Because Hyatt’s footprint is so small. By comparison, you have a 900% better chance of finding a Hilton than you do a Hyatt. With Hilton, you can still qualify for status with more benefits for just 30 stays instead of 60 nights. That makes the process 18x easier for me.
Marriott and SPG have more top-end properties, and by ratio, Hyatt does better at the top-end than Hilton too. However, in smaller communities, I still struggle to find a Hyatt from time-to-time. Yes, Marriott is bigger, but I rarely find a market where Marriott (7,000+ hotels) is the only show in town and Hilton (5,000+) doesn’t even offer a Hampton Inn. That’s important because, in order to enjoy the status, it should be attainable without serious strain.
If Hilton formalizes their Diamond Suite Upgrade program, any traveler would be a fool not to make it the top of their list.
Read More: Hypocrisy: Why I am Doubling Down on Hyatt
Read More: Interview: Aaron Glick – VP Hilton Honors
What do you think? Is there a better top-tier hotel status than Hilton? Do you think this is just a prelude to an increase in the number of required nights/stays?