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

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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.

Conclusion

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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