“Embarrassed” and “Sorry” About Sudden Removal of Hilton HHonors AXON Award — and What Happened

“M aybe this isn’t news to all you HHonors Guru out there, but I was sad to find out today that the AXON awards are no longer available. I was told by the Diamond Desk that the program ended on 12/31/2016. I’m kicking myself for not planning this redemption last week” is what FlyerTalk member ssung posted in this discussion on Sunday, January 8, 2017.

Two thoughts immediately entered my mind when I read that: I never took advantage of the AXON award in the years in which I have been a member of the Hilton HHonors frequent guest loyalty program simply because I never really had any interest; and based on my meeting with key members of the Hilton HHonors team greater than a year ago, this sudden action with no notice just did not sound like something anyone currently at Hilton Worldwide would do…

“Embarrassed” and “Sorry” About Sudden Removal of Hilton HHonors AXON Award

…so rather than speculate and prognosticate, I simply decided to ask for myself.

Aaron Glick — who is the vice president of the Hilton HHonors frequent guest loyalty program at Hilton Worldwide — said during a telephone conversation with me this morning that he only first found out about the cancellation of the AXON award a couple of days ago.

“This is not the way we run the Hilton HHonors program,” he said — and he did not hesitate at all whatsoever to let me know that he was “embarrassed” and “sorry” about the lack of any notice. “We want to be as transparent as possible to our members.”

The decision to end the AXON award on Saturday, December 31, 2016 was apparently reached prior to Aaron Glick joining the Hilton HHonors team back in March of last year; and he simply did not know about it — but upon researching the AXON award itself, it seems to be “confusing” and “complicated” and that “very few people used it.”

The aforementioned FlyerTalk discussion indirectly confirms the assertion that few people used the AXON award. Since that discussion was launched on Sunday, January 8, 2017, only 25 responses by 16 members of FlyerTalk — that includes FlyerTalk member HHonorsRepresentative who officially represents Hilton HHonors on FlyerTalk — were posted at the time this article was written. If what happened was a major deal, many more FlyerTalk members would have posted their outrage or concerns by now.

That is not to say that the AXON award had no value. To those people who did use it, the AXON award was a great use of Hilton HHonors points: as one example, it was more flexible than the fifth night free award.

Regardless, I was assured by Aaron Glick that Hilton HHonors “will come up with better things” for members in the future — and I believe him. Two examples of improvements already implemented are the modifications to the qualification criteria of becoming a Diamond VIP elite level status member for a lifetime; and the simplification of potentially rewarding promotions such as the popular double and triple points promotion, which has been extended twice.

What Is the AXON Award?

The AXON award allowed holders of the Hilton HHonors Card from American Express — no, that is not an affiliate link — to exclusively take advantage of stays of four nights at hotel and resort properties which fall under award categories 5 through 10.

Years ago, you were able to score four nights at any Category 5 or higher hotel or resort property worldwide for only 125,000 Hilton HHonors points. The current redemption for four nights ranges from 130,000 Hilton HHonors points for a Category 5 hotel or resort property to 300,000 Hilton HHonors points for a Category 10 hotel or resort property.

AXON is simply the code to use when you want to redeem Hilton HHonors points for that award.

Summary

I agree that there was absolutely no excuse not to inform members of the Hilton HHonors frequent guest loyalty program with advance notice of the elimination of the AXON award — and apparently, Aaron Glick agrees as well. His refreshing candor and owning up to responsibility without hesitation reminded me of that of Jim Whitehurst when he was chief operating officer of Delta Air Lines, who admitted that “we screwed up” — and I was sure to point that out to him during our telephone call this morning.

Customers and members of frequent travel loyalty programs are wary these days — and who can blame them? “Hilton should take a page out of Southwest’s playbook. When Southwest cut off the ability to get companion pass qualifying points from hotel transfers at the start of 2017 without notice, they quickly backtracked and gave people 90 days to do so. That would be quite appropriate here, and I hope someone at Hilton decides to try that”, posted FlyerTalk member zachary. “I’m not holding my breath, however.”

Mistakes happen. The difference pertaining to this specific issue is that the team at Hilton HHonors owned up to it — even as it might not be their fault. FlyerTalk member arlflyer asked “How do we really know that Hilton made this decision? If I were forced to bet, I’d say it was AMEX. They’ve been having a rough go of it lately, and surely were partially kicking in for this benefit.” After the news was released that the AXON award has been extended through Wednesday, February 15, 2017, arlflyer opined, “I think AMEX pulled these and now Hilton is taking the high road. Nicely done!”

Who was specifically at fault did not matter to Aaron Glick. “The Hilton name is on that award,” he said to me. That reminded me of the opposite way of thinking pertaining to how airlines seem to defer responsibility of irregular operations onto a partner — such as a commuter airline when a flight is delayed or canceled — despite the name and logo of the airline being plastered on the airplane itself and on the boarding pass, which can significantly frustrate a customer to whom that airline marketed and sold a seat for that flight.

“I guess that I should have held my breath after all”, zachary later admitted. “Color me pleasantly surprised.”

Would it not be nice if more frequent travel loyalty programs were this candid and responsive to their members?

Source: American Express.

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