I’m currently on a crazy trip, that spans 3 continents, 6 long haul flights, 2 shorthaul flights, and is my second attempt to fly the “Cycle” (which is baseball terminology). This trip talks about two different experiences with respect to recognition of hotel status.
In the course of the trip, we’re spending 4 nights on planes, two of them leading to early check-ins at hotels. Now I completely realize, and early check-in is not right, it is completely a courtesy. That said, I thought I’d share my experiences, since arriving early into Europe or South America is pretty common, considering most flights are overnight flights.
First Attempt: Checking into the Sheraton Milan-Malpensa International Airport
The Sheraton is on property at Milan’s airport, MXP, which makes it very convenient, when you arrive on an early flight. Its also convenient for airline crews, which we saw every single time we entered or exited the hotel–Emirates, Qatar, Etihad, maybe Air India and Oman Air. Unfortunately, the hotel staff (and probably management) know that they have a lock on the market (despite the Moxy hotel down the street), and they don’t miss any opportunity to nickle and dime guests.
So here we are, attempting to at least register our request for an available room, and we get to the desk, and the front desk staff member didn’t even look at our details or reservation, only saying “Did you pre-pay for early check-in?” Now we were staying on SPG points (7k SPG points, vs. 30k Hyatt Points for the Park Hyatt Milano, we had made the decision to go SPG the night before, so we knew they had rooms). We also have Gold status (which perhaps doesn’t mean much, except that we could stand on the cool rug…). Alas we opted instead to drop our bags (and had to do so at the airport, since the hotel refused to store bags, citing the Brussels attacks), and walked around central Milan for a few hours.
We returned back to the hotel, around 1:30, this time our room was ready for us, it was a reasonably fast check-in, despite more security procedures that we weren’t used to (but not disputing security, e.g. the hotel shares the passports of all guests with airport security overnight, or so the staff member told us). Then I asked about the lounge, since we were using our American Express Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Business card, which has that stated benefit. He denied it, saying that it would be a 40 Euro charge. I explained rather candidly (almost DYKWIA-esque), that we would not be paying 40 Euro, and that the first call I would be making once I made it to the room, was to American Express and Starwood. He offered the compromise that he would check with his management. About a minute after we made it to the room, he called to confirm we did in fact have gratis access to the lounge, and a Bellboy was on his way with the new keys.
Second Attempt: Grand Hyatt Rio de Janeiro
We actually arrived earlier to the Grand Hyatt Rio de Janeiro, primarily because our flight landed a whopping 30 minutes early. This experience was more professional, more, well, many things.
We provided our passports at the check-in desk, and were thanked for being Diamond members, and told that we’d be escorted to the Grand Club for check-in. Our room wasn’t ready, but they did all the formalities of check-in, and invited us to enjoy a relaxing breakfast while the room made ready for us. We spent about an hour waiting, but it didn’t feel that long, because there was frequent contact / check-ins, and offers for made to order eggs, and other food.
Now, I will caveat this with the fact that the hotel has only been open two months. In my experience, usually you see areas for improvements when a hotel has just opened. This was quite the opposite. The staff were all very professional, efficient, and just overall, great.
Not The Difference Between Mid- and Top-Tier Hotel Status
I would argue that the different treatment was not the result of being a Mid-tier (SPG Gold) vs. Top-tier (Hyatt Diamond), member, but I can’t be completely certain. I will say that as a Mid-tier Marriott (Gold) member, I haven’t gotten the kind of treatment I received at the Sheraton Milan-Malpensa Airport. So I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the difference of experience was not because of the difference in status.
I’ll be completely candid, I’ve stayed at, less than a dozen SPG properties over my lifetime. My status is gained from a credit card. But I’ve read enough to know that SPG seems to intentionally make it hard, e.g. the “available suite upgrade.” Hyatt on the other hand, has been exceptional in my experience. All in all, for two brands that in theory have parity (until SPG more fully integrates with Marriott), as far as properties, status, etc. Hyatt knocks it out of the park while SPG is trying to charge the pitcher for the opportunity to throw the ball. Not all hotel status is equal.