What happens when a Marriott Hotel gets Bonvoyed?
Marriott Bonvoy in the frequent flyer community is known for one word, Bonvoyed!
That is typically associated with something negative happening to a guest.
Learn how we managed to play a uno reverse on hotels in India!
Cricket World Cup in India
The cricket world cup is scheduled to be played in India between 5th October and 19th November in 2023. Despite being the largest cricketing event, the scheduling of the matches has left myself incredibly frustrated.
Ticket sales were only recently made available to the general public and schedule changes were occurring up to August 2023. That change also impacted my own travel plans. I had bought a flight expecting the final to occur on November 26 so I planned it to watch both semi-finals and one final. Instead, with the re-scheduled world cup, I would only barely be able to make the final match. My change fee was $500, so even though the circumstances are not ideal, I am still lucky to make it to the World Cup Final.
Identifying the Venue
How do you book hotels if you do not know where the matches will be played?
Well, there are two main matches I would want to watch, and arguable the two biggest matches of the World Cup (if India makes it to the final):
- India vs Pakistan
- World Cup Final
Although I would love to see other matches, I do not have a six week vacation policy that will allow me to step away from work the entire duration. So all my travel planning was around those hotels.
I am not a huge cricket fan, but when I looked across all the stadiums in India that will host the World Cup cricket matches, Ahmedabad consistently appeared that they would host the two biggest matches in the world cup:
- The name was Narendra Modi Stadium, which was the name of the Prime Minister
- Largest stadium in the world
Searching for Hotels
I checked all the dates from October to November, across all hotels in Ahmedbad, and consistently, they were all sold out.
Except for one hotel.
That hotel, which I am going to leave nameless for privacy purposes, always showed just one room and one suite available. The pricing was expensive, but it wasn’t terrible for the dates considering the magnitude of the matches.
As soon as I realized only one hotel was consistently available, I booked that hotel, for one night reservations, from October to November.
I booked one night reservations for a reason, I knew cancelling and re-booking will not work once the official dates are published. So, by booking one night reservations, I had the complete flexibility to determine which nights I wanted to stay once the schedule was announced.
Announcement of Venues
Finally ICC announced the venues for all the world cup matches.
As I rightly guessed, the World Cup Final and the India vs Pakistan match would occur in Ahmedabad.
I quickly opened up my Marriott Bonvoy app, and for all the hotels in the Marriott Bonvoy portfolio, I quickly booked two reservations, one night each, across all the dates that India would be playing the world cup.
At this point in time, while the pricing was elevated, I did not think the pricing was reflective of the World Cup pricing.
There was one hotel which I had to book that was not in the Marriott Portfolio, but everything else was booked through Marriott.
Waking up to an email
As I wake up one morning, I get an email from the property in Ahemedabad, where the India vs Pakistan and the Cricket World Cup Final will be played.
The email read:
Warm Greetings from <Insert Hotel Name>, Ahmedabad!
A the outset, Thank you for choosing to stay at <Insert hotel name> for your upcoming visit to Ahmedabad. We are writing to inform that your reservation, detailed as below, is currently confirmed by card.
- Guest Name: Mr Moli
- Check in : <redacted>
- Check out : <redacted>
- Confirmation no : <redacted>
To ensure that your booking stands guaranteed, we request you to confirm with an advance deposit against room charges of INR <redacted>/- using the following link:
[ https://payit.cc/…. ]
The payment link is Valid until 07-07-2023 10:36:28 and we request you to process the deposit through the same. A non-receipt of the deposit would render the booking tentative, and may not guarantee the room.
Please reach us for any assistance or clarifications that you may have, and we look forward to welcoming you soon!
I pointed out to the hotel, that I am a loyal Titatinum Elite member and that the cancellation policy listed in my email indicated I can cancel my reservation up to 48 hours prior to arrival.
But, they came back with the following email:
At the outset we wish to thank your for your loyalty and your patronage sir.
We acknowledge your mail. The reservation whilst made over flexible rates, these are high demand dates for the hotel and the city of Ahmedabad.
In order to guarantee your reservation, a hundred percent non refundable advance deposit would need to be taken by the hotel to secure your reservation over these dates. We would not be in a position to hold your reservation without the deposit.
We truly value your loyalty status as an Elite member and also request your understanding on the above and request you to guarantee your booking within the time frame mentioned in our previous communication to you.
Uh oh. I now have just a day to make the payment before they cancel my reservation.
I made sure I booked the hotel with through my travel advisory services. I reached out to my team, and together, we came up with a strategy:
- As a travel agent, we will email our contact at Marriott, the Global Director of Sales.
- I will email the Marriott Bonvoy Social Media Champion as a Titanium Elite guest.
- I will email the CEO of Marriott as a Titanium Elite guest.
- I will call the Titanium Customer Support and work towards a resolution.
The next set of responses were exciting.
Social Media Champion Responds
The Marriott Bonovy Social Media Champion responded within a few hours. In that time, they asked for more information, and had created an internal ticket for the system.
My call to Marriott Titanium Customer Service
The next day, I called up Marriott Titanium Support. She asked me to forward the email, and her first response was, don’t you dare communicate with them anymore. And don’t you dare pay through an absurd payment link. The hotel has to follow Marriott processes for the safety and security of your information.
She already noticed there was a ticket in the system under my name, and she found it absurd how a hotel can retro-actively change their cancellation policy. She even started reading out the response to the ticket that was created by the Social Media Champion, and their response, in verbatim was:
We recognize he booked a flexible rate. However, we are changning to non-refundable and non-cancellable.
She then said, oh dear, this will get messy, but don’t you worry. Marriott will take care of you. She connected me with a manager, and she took down additional notes. My messaging was, I’m happy to pay a deposit, but by no means should the hotel be allowed to make it non refundable. She took my notes and said, that this has been escalated at the highest levels, and expect a response soon.
Email from the Corporate Office
The next day, I got an email from the Corporate Office of Consumer Affairs (this was in response to the email sent to the CEO).
Dear Mr. Aggarwal,
I hope this email finds you well. This is Janphy Huang with the Marriott Office of Consumer Affairs. Your email to Mr. Capuano has been referred to me for a response. Thank you for your support of Marriott Bonvoy as our Titanium Elite member.
Please allow me to contact you through email due to the time zone difference. I am sorry to learn of your comments about the upcoming reservation issue and the hotel’s follow-up with these. I sincerely apologize for any inconvenience you have experienced. I have shared your comments with our hotel’s Executive management team and have requested them to respond to you directly. I will continue to monitor this situation to ensure a proper response is sent. Please allow up to 3-5 business days for response.
Email from the Global Director of Sales
They email my travel advisory, letting me know that she CC’ed the hotel’s director of sales for a statement and will let them respond to us.
At this point in time, there is clearly an escalation at the highest levels in place. We are past the payment deadline. My hotel reservation is still available, but there is no response at all from the hotel.
A few days later, I finally got this email:
Thank you for your revert on confirming the reservation. Please inform us if any change in plans up to 48 Hours of arrivals. Modification within 48 Hours of arrival would attract Cancellation Penalty /Modification Charge. Please reach us for any assistance or clarification that you may have, and we look forward to welcoming you soon!
Now, let me do a happy dance.
The response back felt amazing. We always hear of guests being Bonvoyed, but finally, a hotel was on the receiving end of being Bonvoyed.
A las, as I book my flights, I’m looking forward to spending my time in Ahmedabad and watching (if I get the tickets) the India vs Pakistan match and the Cricket World Cup Final.
See you there!