I’ve status matched and status challenged a number of times in the past decade. My first ever was a Delta status match from their Japan web site that was live for a couple of days. At the time I was a United Premier member (lowest on the totem pole), from the great days of double EQMs on every flight. During the one year I was a Delta Silver Medallion, I took exactly one Delta flight. Probably not the best use of a status match (particularly if matches are only “once in a lifetime”), but my experience on that single (short) flight from IND to MSP left me wanting Delta status if I ever moved to a Delta hub city. My complimentary upgrade cleared, and having complimentary adult beverages and snacks after a 3-day camping binge on the way to a wedding, the space and refreshments provided a sense of relief that I can still emotionally feel, close to a decade later.
When I put that into comparison for a couple other recent status matches, I wonder what the executives were thinking, and hoping, by providing status matches. A few years ago I took the Hyatt Challenge – which incentivized me to actually move into a Hyatt for a few weeks in the middle of a work relocation. Win-win for everyone. I fell in love with the Diamond status benefits – again, the espresso machine and light snacks in Baltimore’s Hyatt Regency lounge weren’t life-altering, but when working 18+ hour days for a few weeks, to wake up and be able to grab 3 double-espresso lattes in to-go cups with 2 croissants in under a minute, the benefit felt life-altering. I’ve been a committed Hyatt fan since – staying at Hyatt’s across the globe, both on points and cash stays.
Compare that to Hilton Diamond status, which I matched to late last year. I’ve been a Hilton Gold member for years through varying credit cards. And I LOVE the breakfast benefit. I decided to match to Diamond for a couple reasons: first, I knew we were heading to Aruba, and while we would spend a few nights at the Hyatt, I was interested in seeing what the Hilton Diamond status would provide. So we booked one night at the Hilton in Aruba. You can read my post about it here. Wow. What a letdown. First, let me start out by saying I always ask if an upgrade is available, but I don’t press it. At all. I didn’t earn the status through paid stays, and I don’t feel entitled to upgrades if they aren’t available. But in this case, we were staying for 1 night, arriving rather late in the afternoon, and the hotel was selling multiple suites. No upgrade? OK. Score +1 for Hyatt and the confirmed suite upgrade I was getting for the next few nights. If you read further into my trip report, for breakfast we received a pastry and orange juice. It was a joke. -1 for Hilton Diamond Status. Maybe it was just the Aruba property…we’ll see.
A few stays at various Hilton properties throughout the year, nothing earth-shattering, no room upgrades, nothing that made me feel that Diamond status was better than Gold status.
And then my most recent Hilton stay. I’m writing this post after a 3-night stay at the Hilton Resort & Spa in Mauritius. It’s a nice property – the grounds reminded me a lot of the Grand Hyatt in Bali. Very spread out, somewhat dated rooms, but overall quite nice. We arrived around 7:00pm. Check-in took nearly 30 minutes (you know, island time), only to be given a welcome letter when we get shown the room, with the employee inviting us to a GM reception cocktail hour…from 6:30pm-7:30pm. I asked: “So the reception is over?” And they responded that yes, unfortunately we have missed the reception by a couple of minutes. I’d understand if the welcome letter was left in the room; however, the letter was handed to us with an explanation of what it was. I asked if we could attend the one the following night, which they replied unfortunately it was only valid on the date you arrived.
OK – not a big deal, but when you are the highest status of a loyalty reward program, you expect the highest level of convenience. Everyone should get great service, so you shouldn’t be given better service – but rather convenience. A Diamond member was set to arrive, and instead of pre-checking in the rooms, we had to wait for nearly 30 minutes (after a seven hour plane ride and hour taxi ride). Again, the mythical upgrade was not to be found despite the hotel selling three different suite types at the time of check-in. This again isn’t a knock on the property or made the stay any less enjoyable, but I would assume the goal of a status match is to make the guest want to remain at their matched status level. I would assume it is used as a tool to show potential high-value guests that their offering for elite members is better than their competitors. But apparently there is no difference between a Diamond and Gold member in the World of Hilton. I have zero reason, whether for business or personal travel, to try to attain Diamond status. I’m better off chasing Hyatt/Marriott/Starwood, as I already have Hilton Gold, and there’s nothing I get for increasing my loyalty. I couldn’t even receive a 30-minute late check-out for one of my two rooms (I even offered to check-out 2 hours early for one of my rooms). That’s not convenience – and if I had actually earned the status through paid stays, I’d never stay at a Hilton property again after that level (or lack there of) of service.
One benefit that Hilton Diamond status allows is a “room guarantee.” I found that perk name to be quite misleading. On multiple occasions throughout the year, I needed a room at a hotel and was unable to book them. On the occasions that I was able to book them, one was for a DoubleTree in Charlottesville, Virginia, and one was for a Hampton Inn outside Iowa City, Iowa; however, I had to check the Hilton app about 3-4 times a day for weeks until finally they opened up a room, and in both cases just day(s) before the stay. Both of those worked out OK for me…worst case was that I would crash in a friend’s room somewhere else where they were staying. But again, top level elite status is about convenience. If I were not a fly-by-last-minute-is-ok type of guy, I would have booked a room somewhere else. And certainly checking constantly for weeks does not spell out convenience.
I would assume that during the beginning of this year, Hilton will perform analysis on all guests with whom they offered a match at the end of 2015, also taking into account what program/level they matched from, to see if there was any lift in trips and/or revenue from these guests in 2016. My guess is that they will see anywhere from 1-2 stays – essentially trials, at which point then there isn’t a meaningful bump. I’d also be interested to see how their 2018 analysis of these guests are in 2017. The fact is, Hilton Diamond status offers nearly nothing beyond Gold – and any type of “Status Chasing” that I might have tried this year, be in through stays or credit card spend, went out the window. In Hilton’s case, they actually lost potential future revenue from me, given that I’ve seen there’s no wizard behind the curtain.
Maybe I’m missing something. Maybe my experiences throughout the year are all anomalies. If not, Hilton just said: we’ll incent you to stay with us to prove that we have inferior top-level elite benefits compared to our peers. I’m not sure what the executives in their loyalty program were thinking. At the very minimum, if they are trying to compete with their competitors, a competitor assessment needs to be made for their top tier level.
Have you had better experiences as a Diamond member? Will your status match result in increased spend within the Hilton brand in 2017 and beyond? I’m just baffled and am wondering if I just had some unfortunate experiences throughout this past year.