Earlier today we learned that it will mostly be business as usual for Marriott and Starwood in 2018, as the two brands will maintain separate loyalty programs. So it looks like Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest will be merged in 2019 at the earliest, which has a lot of us Starwood loyalists excited.

One of my favorite aspects of top tier status with Starwood is that they offer unlimited complimentary suite upgrades subject to availability. This contrasts to Marriott’s policy of offering room upgrades subject to availability, which may include a suite at the hotel’s discretion.

In other words, at a Starwood hotel you’re “entitled” to a suite if it’s empty, while at a Marriott hotel it’s at the hotel’s discretion.

Just to drive home the point even more, here’s how Starwood describes their Platinum suite upgrade policy:

An upgrade to best available room at check-in — including a Standard Suite.

Here’s how Marriott describes their Platinum suite upgrade policy:

Complimentary Room Upgrade: Based on room availability at check-in and limited to a Member’s personal guestroom. Upgrades may include rooms with desirable views, rooms on high floors, corner rooms, rooms with special amenities, rooms on Executive Floors, or suites.  All upgrades are granted on a space-available basis, as determined at the time of check-in. Upgrades are subject to availability and identified by each hotel.

Hints of Starwood’s future suite upgrade policy?

It’s possible that this is has simply been a glitch for the past several months, but if history is any indicator, “glitches” like this are often indicative of things to come. Or who knows, maybe this is actually intentional.

When you requalify for Starwood Platinum status you receive an email with the subject line “Enjoy Your Platinum Status with SPG.”

It lists all the benefits you receive for being a Platinum member. Back when I requalified for Platinum status in May, the section regarding suite upgrades read as follows, along with the corresponding footnotes (bolding in the footnotes section is mine):

Step up your stay. An upgrade to the best available room at check-in — including a Standard Suite.

Subject to availability for the length of the stay, provided the room was not booked through a prepaid, third-party channel, including priceline.com, expedia.com, booking.com, orbitz.com, elong.com and delta.com. Upgrades are to best available room, including Standard Suites. Not offered at Aloft and Element hotels.

YHBU points out that members who have requalified for Platinum more recently (as of June, it seems), received a slightly different welcome email. Specifically, the section about suite upgrades read as follows (bolding in the footnotes section is mine):

Step up your stay. Enhanced room upgrades at check-in and 4 p.m. late check-out.

Subject to availability for the length of the stay, provided the room was not booked through a prepaid, third-party channel, including priceline.com, expedia.com, booking.com and orbitz.com. Enhanced rooms are rooms on higher floors, corner rooms, newly renovated rooms and rooms with preferred views. Enhanced rooms do not include suites. Not offered at Aloft or Element hotels.

It looks like Starwood has adjusted their Platinum upgrade terms to align with Marriott, at least in this email. However, I should note that the homepage with SPG Platinum benefits continues to list upgrades to the best available rooms, including suites.

There are a few ways this change can be interpreted:

  • Starwood wants to get more conservative with their terms for the time being in terms of what they’re promising for the remainder of the membership year, since they don’t know what exactly a combined program will look like
  • This is a planned change that’s on the horizon, and someone just accidentally hit “publish” too early
  • Marriott is slowly trying to condition SPG members into not expecting suite upgrades, and this is the first step

Personally I’m not reading too much into this just yet, as I doubt we’ll see any major changes before the programs are combined. Once they are combined, I do suspect they’ll take the Marriott approach towards suite upgrades rather than the Starwood approach, though I certainly hope I’m wrong.

What do you make of SPG changing the way they phrase their Platinum upgrade policy?

(Tip of the hat to YHBU)