I have been in the Polynesia for the past week. Flew from Cape Town to Easter Islands via Johannesburg, Sydney, Auckland, and Santiago, and then took that once weekly LAN Easter Island to Papeete fight on Monday. This is my first time in Tahiti and thought that I would check out few hotels out while I am here. I have been to a few of the Pacific islands before; Cook Islands, Western Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, and of course Hawaii. There are quite a few small ones still left to visit.
There are no Hyatt or Marriott options in French Polynesia. InterContinental has three resorts in Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora. Hilton has one in both Tahiti and Bora Bora and both of these used to be under the Sheraton flag. Starwood has Le Meridien in Tahiti and both Le Meriden and St. Regis hotels in Bora Bora. Radisson also has a Radisson Plaza hotel in Tahiti. There is a Sofitel in Tahiti that is closing at the end of November but the ones in Moorea and Bora Bora will stay open.
So, I decided against flying to Bora Bora as I was going to be here only for five nights including very late arrival and an equally early departure. I did, however, wanted to check out the Moorea island as well that is about half an hour ride using a catamaran from Papeete.
Unfortunately the InterContinental hotel there was sold out this week and I couldn’t find any availability either using points or cash. I wasn’t too sure about my schedule here so I didn’t book any of the hotels in advance.
Here my problem with the Hilton starts. I was searching for award availability for the Moorea Hilton for Tuesday this week. When I am not logged in, the website shows the basic level room available and the cash and the points (50K HH) price associated with it. When you try to book the room, the availability using points vanishes once you are logged in, however. I tried to book it using number of different browsers but the end result was always the same; availability was shown but it was gone once I logged in.
Thing to note here is that there has been some controversy in the past with ecommerce sites that are discriminating based on operating system i.e. Mac users are shown higher priced options or in the case on Amazon the prices were dependent of the browser used.
Anyway, I thought that this was a glitch and called the Hilton HHonors Diamond line as I wasn’t ready to pay the “Premium Room Reward” price of 172K points per night for Panoramic over water villa. The lady who answered the Diamond special services was not able to see any other availability than the Panoramic over water villa and I requested her to transfer me to the supervisor.
My call with the Diamond line ended up taking 57 minutes. Yes. 57 minutes. The supervisor that I got at the Hilton Guests Assistance line was borderline rude first. She was just claiming that the hotel had sold out the rooms that are available using points. When I pointed out that the hotel was still selling the room type that these award rooms book into, she was just claiming that the hotel must have sold out the number of rooms that they have allocated for points and there is nothing that she can do about it.
I then asked her to have a look at the terms and conditions of the Hilton HHonors and she told me that she is well aware of them. I pointed out that under the Hilton HHonors Terms and conditions Hotel Reward stays Number 4 it states that “Reward stays are not subject to blackout dates and capacity controls”. If hotel would be only allocating certain number of their base rooms for awards, this would constitute capacity controls. She was claiming that it is not what this terms and conditions met.
She was pointing out to the 2 a. Standard Room Rewards. She was claiming that “Members can use HHonors points to book a standard room, as defined by each hotel and subject to availability”. According to her all the rooms that the hotel had allocated for award redemptions were gone.
This went on for like 20 minutes. I was almost starting to lose my patience. It was clear that the hotel had the room type available that the awards book into and the availability was shown before I had to log in.
Finally, she realized that there was indeed a problem when she tried to search for availability without any Hilton HHonors number plugged in. She was also able to see the room available for points but it always disappeared after inputting the number. She was not sure where the problem was.
I was on hold for extensive period of time while they were trying to sort this out. At the end, they were not able to book the room that was show on the Hilton.com. She claimed to have even called the hotel and was told that they were sold out. Obviously this was not the case as they were still selling rooms that the award should book into. I then requested if they could just switch a paid booking that I could do to a points one as there was obviously a problem somewhere in their system. This was not possible according to her.
At the end, I just ended up extending my stay at the InterContinental Tahiti for an additional day and booked the Hilton Moorea for another day this week. As a matter of fact I am just writing this from a Panoramic over water villa at the Hilton Moorea that I got as an upgrade for being a Hilton HHonors Diamond member.
There are occasional glitches with Hilton.com award availability, but I have always been able to book the award previously. Normally, you just need to try logging in/out and/or to use a different browser. This didn’t work out on this case.
I was surprised how little the person working for the Hilton Guests Assistance knew about the program. Arguing about award availability and something that totally contradicts what is posted as the terms and conditions of the program, is not the wisest approach.