Check Your Hotel Reservations — The Cancellation Policy May Have Changed

“M y upcoming reservation in DC went from one day cancellation when it was booked to now showing two day cancellation.”

This observation posted by FlyerTalk member Tanic is only one of a number of acknowledgements by members of FlyerTalk that the cancellation policies of a number of hotel and resort properties of Marriott International, Incorporated have quietly changed from canceling a hotel reservation 24 hours prior to checking in without paying a penalty to a minimum of 48 hours — and with no advance notice or announcement — in certain locations.

Check Your Hotel Reservations — The Cancellation Policy May Have Changed

A collaborative effort by FlyerTalk members to pool information revealed that the minimum cancellation policies without penalties prior to check in seem to be the following — albeit most likely a loose and incomplete list:

  • Two days prior New York, Boston, Denver and Malaysia
  • One day prior Los Angeles, Kansas City, District of Columbia, Philadelphia, Newark, Houston, Charlotte, Norfolk, Raleigh and San Diego
  • One to three days prior San Francisco and Maui — varies depending on hotel property

When Hotel Cancellation Policies First Became Stricter

Many hotel cancellation policies used to be free of penalties if you canceled your reservation prior to 6:00 in the evening on the day of arrival — some hotel properties still have that flexible cancellation policy today; but they are rather rare — until October of 2014, when major lodging companies started enforcing variations of a stricter day before cancellation policy.

The main reason for the stricter cancellation policy was that the more lenient policy was not fair to the management of the hotel property if someone canceled his or her reservation when the hotel was completely booked. What if someone else could have used that room but was denied the ability to book the reservation — only to have that room possibly unused due to a cancellation at the last minute?

Why are lodging companies further tightening the restrictions on cancellation policies? According to what FlyerTalk member rylan posted, “…seems like they’re trying to push hard to extract more out of business travelers due to last minute changes.”

Marriott International, Incorporated is not the only lodging company implementing this stricter cancellation policy. “I don’t think this is just Marriott. I’ve been seeing 2 and 3 day cancels from Hyatt and Hilton in major US for some time”, FlyerTalk member Kacee observed. “It’s what hotels can get away with when there’s high demand.”

Summary

Once a reservation is booked, the terms typically cannot be changed; so if the cancellation policy changed after you booked your hotel reservation and you believe that the change may cause a problem for you, contact a representative of the lodging company to have the policy reversed. You should have no problem with the lodging company complying with your request — even if you do not have a screen shot or some other sort of evidence as proof of your claim…

…but unless changes in your travel plans frequently occur at the last minute, the change in the cancellation policy will most likely not affect you.

“Is it possible to change the dates of the booked reservation to avoid having to pay under the cancellation policy terms?” asked FlyerTalk member GUWonder, who seems to be proposing a possible loophole to the restricted hotel cancellation policy. “To change the dates of a reservation is not the same as to cancel a reservation, so I’m curious if some sort of date changes could be done to a reservation so as to avoid being hit by the cancellation policy terms.”

Keep in mind that the latest cancellation policies seem to be governed by individual hotel properties and not necessarily the parent lodging company, as they are obviously not global. As always, you are encouraged to please impart in the Comments section below any hotel cancellation policies which you may have encountered that could help assist fellow readers of The Gate.

My experience with hotel properties is that — again, on extremely rare occasions — if I ever needed to cancel a reservation beyond the deadline, I have never had to pay a penalty. I usually had a good reason — such as a canceled or delayed flight — and the representative had always been understanding. That is not to say that that would be the scenario moving forward nor would I expect that level of service; but as long as lodging companies empower their employees with the ability to implement logical decisions, I generally do not expect this “unwritten policy” to change.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

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