Are Some Hotels Actively Blocking Award Availability By Gaming Their Inventory? – Case Sheraton Duesseldorf Airport Hotel


Sometimes hotels just can’t play by the rules and try to be sneaky about how many (if any) rooms they give out as award stays as required by their associated loyalty program, especially if it claims ‘No Black Out Dates’ such as Starwood Preferred Guest.

While looking up availability at the Sheraton Duesseldorf Airport Hotel I noticed that the hotel never has any availability when searching for two guests, only their single bed is available on 2-3 dates every month.

I found this rather odd for a Starwood property because even though at times I notice hotels blocking certain room types or moving suites into the ‘specialty suites’ category which aren’t eligible for Platinum Upgrades, hotels rarely try to circumvent given out award stays at all.

Here is how the search looks like when you attempt to book a SPG award for 2 guests:

The search won’t yield a single day of availability during the entire year. Something obviously isn’t right!

At the Sheraton Duesseldorf Airport there are however Single occupancy rooms available and when you try and search for these you’re able to find at least a few dates:

Keep in mind this is a search for full points stays, not cash & points thus there shouldn’t be any blackout dates as far as availability is concerned. As long as rooms are for sale you should be able to book them on points.

You can book these Single, French Bed rooms for both full points as well as cash & points on the dates I was looking for. Mind you, at a rate of 105 EUR it makes very little to no sense using such an award but there are of course dates when even standard rooms are extremely expensive.

I contacted Starwood and inquired about the matter to figure out if this is an honest mistake of incorrectly coding room inventory on the hotels side or possible foul play. Hotels have many reasons to discourage/avoid awards being available. One of them being that the reimbursement from the loyalty program is very little compared to regular revenue guests.

I received the following email from the hotel:

Dear Sir,

Thank you for contacting our customer service center regarding the SPG rates.

We forwarded your comments immediately to our revenue manager and he took the necessary steps in order to solve this issue.

Please accept our most sincere apologies for any upset or inconvenience caused.

Should you have questions or any wishes please let us know any time.

Kind regards,

Front Desk Manager [Name Withdrawn]

First of all I have to give them credit for getting back to the customer and acknowledging the situation.

I have however checked and as of today there is still no improvement as far as the rates are concerned which begs the question: How difficult is it to get something like this under control if it’s really just an honest mistake?

Hotels use these programs as their marketing instrument and it’s just fair when they have to obey the rules just as the members are expected to. In fact most hotels do follow these rules when it comes to availability and upgrade guidelines but there are always a few bad apples in the basket.


It depends on the loyalty program how properties are being reimbursed for award stays. Every now and then you’re able to see these amounts on a folio or registration form. Often they are below $20 per stay. Of course there exceptions when a hotel is close to full occupancy for example with Hyatt Gold Passport the property gets reimbursed close to the Average Daily Rate (ADR) in such instance.

I can’t imagine that I’m the first customer to notice this discrepancy at the Sheraton Duesseldorf Airport and it looks more like systematic gaming rather than a glitch. Let’s see if they now feel compelled to do something about it.

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  • Aaron Minto

    I have noted several IHG properties doing a similar thing – rooms for sale but “award nights unavailable”. Odd when their program promised “no blackout dates on room redemption”….

    • SAK1983

      100% agree

    • Barbarella

      Supposedly there are no blackout dates at IHG. But there is a limited inventory for those reward nights at each property. If I remember correctly John mentioned once that the IHG properties needed to offer 5% of their room inventory for RN redemptions.

      • Jimbo

        Yes, funny how they claim there aren’t any blackout dates but still they contradict themselves by saying that rooms aren’t available on certain dates as award nights. I’ve been using IHG extensively in the U.S. for years and everything went really well before last summer. Not sure if I ever saw any blackout dates before that. Somehow everything changed last year and it felt like 1/3 of the hotels I was looking at suddenly had these blackout dates which aren’t blackout dates. Same thing this summer. I’ve even seen these blackout dates on February when looking at June/July dates. Some hotels have gone really rogue as they know that they will be fully booked with very high rates on high season. I’m sure the gap what IHG pays to the hotel and what the hotels can get with cash booking has widened too much as it looks like the hotels can ask quite high nightly rates compared to couple of years ago.

  • Miro

    There are several Hilton brand hotels with premium rooms only and NO standard award availability (See Conrad Sanya China or Hilton Los Cabos Resort Mexico)… clearly cheating the systems, as they had standard rooms before, but recently they have obviously re-named all standard rooms into premium ones. And this is getting more and more wide-spread. Shame on you, Hilton!

    • I have actually requested Hilton’s statement about the Conrad Sanya situation and just sent them a reminder.

  • SAK1983

    I have noticed with Intercontinental Mecca Saudi Arabia that reward stays are very difficult to get in peak days even though standard rooms are available.

    • IHG hotels must make 5% of their room inventory available as awards. Not tied to the standard room availability.

      • SAK1983

        Hi John , i was wondering if perhaps you could get a statement from this particular ihg hotel ( Makkah) I tried the dates when Ramadan is staring 27th may onwards , rooms are available paying cash but no reward nights .

  • Mike

    I encounter a case which the hotel only allows a standard room award to show when I book 2 night continuously. If I only pick one night, the standard room award is GONE. I called and email the hotel and they said that it is their policy. By the way, it’s a DoubleTree hotel in China!

    • Some hotels may have minimum stay requirement that can apply to award nights too. Hilton Diamond members are exempt of these when using points.

  • Brenda May

    we booked into sheraton sydney last month we booked in 12pm no upgrade as hotel was full they told us as we were going out till 5pm when we came back they gave a normal room as it was full not much i could say at 6.30 pm on my laptop i tried to book a suite no problem than i rang the hotel asked if they had any suites yes the had i never said my name so it looks like platinum are not offered them so it looks back to marriott sydney pier one always gave me a suite 12 this year i went to the westin at least we got to exutive floorvery sad emailed the manager he said i hadnt erernd it

    • Gary

      Take a breath already.

  • jimniche

    The Hyatt Regency Vancouver is clearly playing this game. It doesn’t offer the base level room required for Award bookings. Yet those base level rooms are freely available on 3rd party booking sites. They show the very occasional night, usually on a Sunday. Despite repeated requests to Hyatt to investigate, they claim they can’t see any evidence of the hotel doing anything wrong!

  • Christian

    Your call, of course, but if the email is indicative of the way they want to play this, then play dumb. They say that the problem is solved, so tell them that you’re having some trouble finding award nights for two people, and could they please tell you the next dates those would be available. They either call this a glitch and actually fix it, or say that they have no availability for months, upon which you can forward the information to Starwood, proving that the hotel is a pack of scammers.

  • Gary

    It’s obvious that little Sebastian’s reputation as a serial whiner precedes him at check in. He shouldn’t be surprised.

    • ihg newbie

      Here an idea…
      If you don’t like his writings, don’t visit.
      Go somewhere else and troll, you little shit.

      • Gary

        I see little Sebastian has another ID.