Hilton has introduced two new innovations that should be small (perhaps very small) positives. First, they have launched the ability to share your room’s Digital Key with more than one guest which is an innovation that just makes sense. Of more interest to many readers, Hilton has also launched a new system for processing complimentary room upgrades: Upgrades will now (potentially) confirm automatically 72hrs in advance for Gold and Diamond members….sometimes. I wouldn’t hold my breath on this, but I like it for the ability to make speculative bookings and then see whether an upgrade clears before the cancellation deadline.
Sharing Digital Keys
Digital Key sharing makes sense because people often share rooms, particularly on family vacations. Being able to use your phone instead of a plastic keycard makes sense and opening that up for others to use should make things much more convenient in many ways.
The press release notes that the primary guest will be able to share their active Digital Key with up to four additional people or devices within the Hilton Honors app. It looks like the secondary guest will need to be logged in to the Hilton Honors app, receive an invitation from the primary guest, and pass some background security check (I’m guessing to make sure that the primary and secondary guest geolocation shows some proximity, but I don’t know).
Automatic room upgrades for elite members
More interestingly, automatic complimentary room upgrades sound kind of nice. However, I think this is unlikely to be a major improvement. Hilton Honors program terms indicate that Gold members can be upgraded to club level rooms and Diamond members can be upgraded to suites, but Hilton offers no guaranteed upgrades (and indeed the hotel can upgrade whoever the heck they want to a better room, so Hilton upgrade benefits are fairly useless as written in the program terms.
That said, some properties are better than others about honoring those types of upgrades. The Conrad Fort Lauderdale also really hooked me up with an upgrade to a huge 2-bedroom residential-style suite a couple of years ago for a trip with several family members (I had a few rooms booked). Unfortunately, my entire family got violently ill on that trip. Fortunately, everyone had room to spread out.
This new process will automate upgrades and take the front desk out of the picture (at least to some extent) with the computer system supposedly alerting Gold and Diamond members automatically of a complimentary space-available upgraded rooms beginning 72hrs before arrival. Upgraded members will receive an email and push notification from the app and then will be able to choose their upgraded room when checking in through the app.
Unfortunately, I imagine that many properties will only make very minor upgrades available in this way – perhaps a corner room or higher floor, etc. On the other hand, if some properties do proactively upgrade to suites, this could be a nice enhancement.
Personally, at my current life stage (with two young kids), a suite is massively valuable to me. A bedroom with a door enables me to keep the kids separated for bed time and/or put the kids in the living room so I can have a light on and get work done in the bedroom, etc. Because of this change in my life, I have transitioned from being a Hilton fanboy who almost always looked to Hilton first to a Hyatt Globalist who almost never even looks at Hilton anymore. This new feature will change my hotel booking process a bit.
While I highly doubt that many Hilton stays will upgrade to suites, here will be my strategy when I need a suite:
- Look for a Hyatt. I can almost always book a suite easily, whether through one of my Suite Upgrade Awards or with points or some combination of points and money.
- Book a Marriott property and try to apply my suite upgrades. These can start clearing as early as 5 days before arrival. In most cases, that is ahead of the cancellation deadline so I can give it a couple of days to try and see if the suite clears before I need to decide whether or not to keep the reservation
- Book a Hilton property and see if the suite clears 72hrs in advance. If it doesn’t, assuming the hotel has a typical cancellation policy, I could cancel in favor of options 1 or 2.
Assuming I only book properties with at least a 48hr cancellation window, I should get some upgrade window overlap to see if Marriott or Hilton clear to a suite and then I can make a decision based on which clears (if either do).
To be clear, I don’t expect many suite upgrades to clear with Hilton (or Marriott), but this new development means that I can play the upgrade game with a little more certainty to see if it does.
One question that I have is whether your “upgrade” can be taken back. A few times in the past I’ve seen my room get upgraded in the app and then arrived to find that the room type changed back to a normal room (to be clear, this has only happened to me when not using any kind of upgrade instrument and only on rare occasion. Still, with this feature being new, I don’t know whether a property may be able to change its mind and sell your suite to someone else. That would be annoying. I would hope that couldn’t happen, but I’m far from certain.
Overall, this is probably a positivish change from Hilton Honors even if I’m not terribly excited about the prospects.