Swissotel Circle Award Booking Woes: Case Swissotel Amsterdam

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Last year, I wrote about Swissotel Circle Eleva status offer for Etihad Gold members (access here) that is still valid and how to get an award certificate after just one stay (access here).

Swissotel Circle Award Booking Woes U

I had this one Swissotel award sitting on my account for close to a year and it was about to expire in July. A bunch of friends were going to Amsterdam to celebrate the Kings Day and I had decided to join them. The hotel prices in Amsterdam were very high on that weekend, however.

Swissotel Circle Locations

When the hotel prices are high, it is good time to use awards that you may have with the chains and Swissotel even had a property in the city. The Swissotel footprint is rather limited as you can see from the graphic above.

I was somewhere in China at the time and decided to ring Swissotel’s customer service in North America and have them to book the award at the Swissotel Amsterdam for me. To my surprise, the customer service told me that they cannot book these awards, but I rather have to call the property and have the in-house reservations team to do it for me.

Well. I thought that this was weird as their sister company’s (Fairmont President’s Club) loyalty program team can book the awards and upgrades without the member having to call the hotel. I rang the Swissotel Amsterdam and despite the fact that they had the Classic rooms available for the Friday night, I was told that their expected occupancy was high and that they would not accept awards for the weekend. I told the lady that I would contact that Swissotel Circle and have them deal with the issue, but she said that it wouldn’t change anything.

Isn’t it the best time to use the awards when the paid rates are hovering in the 300 to 400 euros per night? Many of the chains don’t have any clause for the properties not to accept awards as long as the base level rooms are available for sale (SPG, Hilton and Hyatt come to mind immediately) and this was the case with Swissotel Circle T&C’s as well.

There was no clause that would have indicated that the properties could deny award requests just because they were expecting to have a high occupancy weekend.

Email Round 1:

Dear Swissotel,

I was now trying to use the Premium Award that I have been sitting on my account for 10 months for one night at the Swissotel Amsterdam for the night of April 25, 2014. The hotel has Classic rooms available, but they are not willing to accept the award.

Can you please investigate?

My Swissotel Circle number is SG01010101 I am also lifetime Fairmont President’s Club Platinum member.

I am currently here in China and it is difficult to call the number in the States/Canada.

Reply:

Thank you for your email.

As the hotel mentioned, the classic room must be available in order to use the Premier award.

Also, we have noticed that you have the Etihad Gold promotion code but we don’t have your Etihad Gold number.  In order to keep this promotion, we need confirmation of your Gold status with Etihad.  Please forward us a scanned copy of your card by return email that also shows your member number so we can add it to your account.

Email Round 2:

The Classic Room was available when I called the hotel yesterday and tried to use the Premium Award that I have on my account. The hotel, however, refused to book it claiming that it was busy period for them. Now, the availability is gone. Please call the hotel and push the award through.

Here’s copy of my current Etihad card. I haven’t received the new one yet.

Reply:

Good afternoon,

I received an answer from Swissotel Amsterdam regarding my request.

They cannot accept the redemption of a Premier Award as their forecasted occupancy is above 90%.  Are you flexible regarding your date of travel as the hotel will try to accommodate you.

Email Round 3:

Thank you for your reply regarding this Award reservation.

While I can understand the hotel’s financial consideration and desire not to honor a valid reward booking at a time of high occupancy, a cursory review of the Swissotel Circle Terms & Conditions (http://www.swissotel.com/circle/terms-of-use/) does not provide such an exception for the property to invoke.

The first clause under Awards does state “Redemption of the awards is subject to availability at hotels at time of booking”.  As the hotel did indeed have availability with the lowest category of room (Classic) at the time of my request, then the property is failing to abide by the T&Cs of the Circle program.  This availability was confirmed with a telephone call over Skype, which I do have a recorded version of should it be required later.

There is no blackout or high occupancy exemption in the Terms an Conditions, thus the hotel must accept my award reservation based on the availability at the time of the original request.  My travel plans are fixed, so I am unable to accept an alternate date.

If the hotel is unwilling to accommodate this request, then I would be willing to accept them arranging a complimentary night on April 25th at Art’otel Amsterdam, InterContinental Amstel or Sofitel Grand Amsterdam, which would offer the same level of accommodation as the Swissotel.

Should both options be denied, I will have no alternative but to stay at one of the aforementioned properties and seek full restitution for the expense and inconvenience via the courts.  However, I am hopeful that this matter can be resolved in a timely and amicable fashion.

Reply:

And their email went silent at his point.

Week later and the day before the scheduled arrival time, I received a phone call from someone working for Fairmont and she left a toll free number for me to call back. This went to my number in the States that is basically a Google voice one and got a transcript of the message by email.

I rang the number and the person who had left the voice mail answered the call. She told me that they had arranged the booking at the Swissotel Amsterdam for the Friday night and that everything was sorted out.

I pointed out that they should centralize these type of bookings as they have done with their Fairmont brand so that nobody would need to go through an experience such as this.

Conclusion

I know that someone will criticize me for sending that somewhat firmly worded email to Swissotel Circle. You occasionally, however, must make your standing on the issue clear before any action is taken. Don’t make demands unless you are willing to follow up though.

I have had similar problems with both Hilton and SPG in the past, where standard rooms have been available for sale but the award inventory was not correctly mapping to them. Luckily, their customer service has been able to work these out without having to resort to strongly worded emails.

Now. I always try to keep my online and offline persona separate. I expect nothing from the hotels or airlines based on what I do here on LoyaltyLobby and I never communicate anything to any staff members whether on the phone or on the ground level about this website.

Somehow, however, Swissotel/Fairmont have these linked. I would not had known this unless the manager that brought wine/cheese amenity hadn’t commented that he liked my website and he had checked and some of his friends are regular readers…..

Swissotel Circle Locations FRHI

One a side note, does anyone really understand why FRHI Hotels & Resorts that encompasses Fairmont, Raffles & Swissotel, prefers to keep three separate loyalty programs; President’s Club (Fairmont), Ambassador (Raffles) and Circle (Swissotel)?

Although all these are separate, there are some crossover benefits for being a Fairmont President Club’s Platinum at Swissotel and Raffles properties and the account for all these different programs is actually the very same. I found this out, when Fairmont Peace hotel printed out my account statement that showed the Swissotel award (I had no idea first what it was).

Wouldn’t it be easier if these three different brands would have just one loyalty program? Fairmont has most of its properties in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean, Raffles has most of its handful of properties in Asia and Swissotel in Europe.

If one program would cover all these three separate brands, it would have far stronger footprint than these individual programs. Most of the program members are likely not even aware that there are status related crossover benefits across these three separate brands.

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