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Coronavirus Policies for Major Hotel Chains

All of the four major hotel chains offer fee-free changes and cancellations for near-term travel. As of April 22, 2020, all 4 major hotel chains had extended elite status through early 2022.  It sure is nice to see these major hotel chains stepping up to alleviate some of the travel-related uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Travel on Point(s) has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Travel on Point(s) and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

Coronavirus Policies for Major Hotel Chains

All of the four major hotel chains offer fee-free changes and cancellations for near-term travel. As of April 22, 2020, all 4 major hotel chains had extended elite status through early 2022.  It sure is nice to see these major hotel chains stepping up to alleviate some of the travel-related uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Travel on Point(s) has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Travel on Point(s) and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

Ever since the novel coronavirus began affecting global travel, major hotel companies have been updating their policies relating to existing reservations, future reservations, and loyalty status. In this article, we cover the current state of affairs for Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott, IHG, and AirBnB.

Hyatt

(6/3/20 update)

Hyatt’s policy applies only to reservations made through Hyatt directly instead of through third parties

Changes and Cancellations:

Existing reservations. All existing reservations booked before July 1 for arrivals through July 31, 2021 can be changed or cancelled at no charge up to 24 hours before arrival. This includes Advance Purchase Rate reservations, which are prepaid and non-refundable.

New reservations. With some very limited exceptions, reservations made after July 1, 2020 -for any arrival date on or before July 31, 2021- can be changed or cancelled at no charge up to 24 hours before arrival. This includes Advance Purchase Rate reservations. The only exceptions are reservations booked after April 1, 2020 at select Destination properties and Special Events Rate reservations booked after April 1, 2020. Additionally, MGM Resorts International, Small Luxury Hotels of the World, and Lindblad Expeditions might not follow Hyatt's policies. Please confirm the cancellation policy in your rate rules.

Bonus points for existing non-refundable reservations for travel through June 2020: As Hyatt had announced earlier, the company had adopted special exceptions for Advance Purchase Rate non-refundable reservations made directly with Hyatt on or before March 8, 2020 for arrivals before June 30, 2020. Guests holding these fully prepaid reservations who have decided not to travel may still opt, at least 24 hours before their stay, to receive 10,000 World of Hyatt bonus points compensation in lieu of both their stay and the free change/cancellation mentioned above.

Reservations booked through Hyatt with MGM Resorts International, Small Luxury Hotels of the World, or Lindblad Expeditions are subject to the cancellation policies of MGM, SLH, or Lindblad, respectively.

World of Hyatt Loyalty Program:

Status extension. Status and benefits as of March 31, 2020 will be extended for all existing elite members without having to re-qualify. This means that whatever your status was as of March 31, 2020–whether Discoverist, Explorist or Globalist–it will be automatically updated to reflect a February 28, 2022 expiration date. Hyatt informs that all elite tier extensions should be reflected in members’ accounts by April 15, 2020.

Points forfeitures suspended. Points forfeitures from account inactivity are suspended through December 31, 2020. Under Hyatt’s existing policies, points do not expire, they are forfeited if a member’s account is inactive for 24 months.

Extension of earned rewards. All unused Free Night, Suite Upgrade or Club Lounge Access awards with expiration dates between March 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020 will be extended to December 31, 2021. This includes existing awards and awards that may be earned throughout this year with a 2020 expiration date. The award extensions will be generated by World of Hyatt, so members do not need to take any action. In addition, awards that expired between March 1 and March 31, 2020 will be replaced with new awards on April 20, 2020.

Postponement of award chart changes. Hyatt is postponing the introduction of Off-peak and Peak point redemption until 2021. These changes were originally planned to go into effect on March 22, 2020. This is great news for when travel resumes, as free-night redemptions will continue to be at standard rates for the rest of this year.

Hyatt’s full COVID-19 policy is available on Hyatt’s website.

Hilton

(6/5/20 update)

Hilton’s policy does not state whether it is limited to reservations made directly through Hilton, but it does instruct guests who need to change reservations made through another travel site, to contact that site for assistance.

Changes and Cancellations

Existing reservations. All individual reservations that are scheduled for arrival on or before August 31, 2020 can be changed or cancelled at no charge, up to 24 hours before the scheduled arrival day. This includes Advanced Purchase, “non-cancellable” reservations.

New reservations. Any reservations booked between March 12, 2020 and August 31, 2020 for any future arrival date can be changed or cancelled at no charge, up to 24 hours before the scheduled arrival day. This includes Advanced Purchase, “non-cancellable” reservations.

Hilton’s policy alerts guests that it may take up to 30 days to complete refunds for reservations involving advanced payments or deposits, due to the number of cancellations.

Hilton Honors Loyalty Program:

Status extension.  All Hilton Honors members whose 2019 status was scheduled to be downgraded on March 31, 2020—whether it’s Diamond, Gold or Silver—will automatically receive an extension through March 31, 2021. In addition, Hilton is extending 2020 member status through March 31, 2022. This means that whatever status you had with Hilton as of March 25, 2020 will last you through March 31, 2022.

Points extension. Hilton has suspended the extension of points scheduled to expire until December 31, 2020.

Extension of earned rewards. Hilton extended the expiration date of all unexpired Weekend Night Rewards as of March 11, 2020, and all new ones issued until August 30, 2020, through the end of next summer (August 31, 2021).

Hilton’s full policy is available on Hilton’s website.

Marriott

(6/3/20 update)

Unlike other hotel brands, Marriott’s policy has separate terms for individual rooms booked into group blocks, such as for conferences or weddings. We describe those below as well. 

Changes and cancellations generally:

Existing reservations. All existing reservations for any future arrival date, including reservations with pre-paid rates, may be changed or cancelled without charge up to 24 hours prior to arrival as long as the change or cancellation is made by July 5, 2020. Any changes to existing reservations will be subject to availability and rate differences. 

New reservations. All new reservations, including reservations with pre-paid rates, booked until July 5, 2020, may be changed or cancelled at no charge up to 24 hours before the scheduled arrival date. Changes to the reservation also will be subject to availability and any rate differences.

Changes and cancellations for individual reservations booked into group blocks:

Existing reservations. Existing reservations made directly through Marriott.com or directly with the hotel for any future arrival date, including reservations with pre-paid rates, may be changed or cancelled without charge up to 24 hours prior to arrival as long as the change or cancellation is made by July 5, 2020. Any changes to existing reservations will be subject to availability and rate differences. 

New reservations. All new individual reservations into group blocks, including reservations with pre-paid rates, booked until July 5, 2020, may be changed or cancelled at no charge up to 24 hours before the scheduled arrival date. Changes to the reservation also will be subject to availability and any rate differences.

Reservations made through third parties. For individual reservations into group blocks made through third parties, Marriott advises guests to contact the relevant third party for information on that third party’s policies. The policy adds that if a third party cancels the event with the group block, it is the third party’s responsibility to cancel the individual reservations made on each guest’s behalf.

Exceptions:

Marriott’s policy for changes and cancellations includes many exceptions, including:

  • “Some exclusions may apply. May exclude periods with special event restrictions or peak demand weeks. Please refer to the property’s Rate Details for applicable terms or exceptions, if any, when booking or changing reservations.”
  • Design Hotels and Homes & Villas by Marriott International are excluded from Marriott’s policy. HVMI’s own cancellation guidance is available here.
  • Marriott states that for individual reservations booked into a pre-existing group block, guests should refer to cancellation terms quoted at the time of reservation. It appears unclear whether reservations part of a pre-existing group block, such as a wedding block, fall under the policy.

Marriott Bonvoy:

Status extension.  Whatever status Bonvoy members earned during 2019 will be extended to February 2022. As a reminder, status with Marriott Bonvoy lasts until the end of February every year, so Marriott is extending the expiration of status earned in 2019 by one year.

Points extension. The expiration of points will be paused until February 2021, at which point Bonvoy points will only expire if your account has been inactive for at least 24 months.

Extension of earned rewards. Marriott has extended the expiration of suite night awards by one year from December 31, 2020 to December 31, 2021. In addition, Bonvoy members who currently have an active Free Night Award expiring in 2020 will be able to use it through January 31, 2021. However, Marriott has an exception for members in mainland China, Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR and Taiwan; Free Night Awards for those members will be extended 12 months into 2021 from the date of expiration.

Marriott’s full policy is available on its website.

IHG

(6/19/20 update)

Changes and Cancellations

Existing reservations. Existing reservations made through April 6, 2020 for stays up to August 31, 2020 can be changed or cancelled at no charge. While changes will not incur fees, they will be subject to changes in pricing. Reservations made as part of groups and meetings will be managed on a case by case basis, so guests are advised to contact the hotel where the reservation was made.

Meanwhile, IHG’s policy states that cancellation fees for existing and new domestic bookings at all IHG hotels in Mainland China, Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR and the Taiwan region will be waived for stays up to April 30, 2020, instead of June 30.

New reservations. IHG instituted a new rate called “Book Now, Pay Later,” which does not require a deposit and cancellations are allowed up to 24 hours before your stay for direct bookings. In addition, IHG’s Best Flexible Rate is fully changeable or refundable up to 6pm (local hotel time) on the day of arrival (subject to the hotels’ individual house policy). This rate is available for bookings made by September 3, 2020 for stays through December 30, 2020

IHG Rewards Club:

Status.  IHG has extended status through January 2022. For Spire Elite members, this extension includes the choice of 25,000 points or the gifting of Platinum status to someone else. IHG has also lowered the criteria for qualifying for loyalty status across the board. This means that instead of being required to earn 10,000 IHG points or stay 10 qualifying nights during the calendar year to achieve Gold Elite, you only have to earn 7,000 points or stay 7 qualifying nights. Requirements for Platinum Elite have decreased from 40,000 points or 40 qualifying nights to 30,000 points or 30 qualifying nights. Requirements for Spire Elite, IHG’s highest level of status, have decreased from 75,000 points or 75 nights to 55,000 points or 55 nights. Keep in mind that these new requirements apply for activity only during 2020.

Points extension. Points due to expire any time after April 1, 2020 will be extended through the end of the year. As a reminder, IHG points expire after 12 months of inactivity in your IHG Rewards Club account.

Rewards extension. Anniversary night certificates due to expire any time after March 1, 2020 can be used through December 31, 2020. Meanwhile, certificates issued in 2020 will have an 18-month redemption period.

IHG’s full policy is available on IHG’s website.

Final Thoughts

All of the four major hotel chains offer fee-free changes and cancellations for near-term travel. As of April 22, 2020, all 4 major hotel chains had extended elite status through early 2022.  It sure is nice to see these major hotel chains stepping up to alleviate some of the travel-related uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Come join our Facebook group to stay up-to-date on the latest policies.

 

Travel on Point(s) has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Travel on Point(s) and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

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