Because travel sucks ... now more than ever.

Standing on Stand-By, Part 2

Mon, 2009/04/20 - 17:23 by aargh

In a previous rant, I noted that hotels had taken a page from the airline book in offering a waitlist for room upgrades during the booking process.

On the one hand, I think it's a novel idea. Anything that makes your hotel experience more of a gamble sure gets my vote.

At the same time, I think the hotels see a few too many similarities between airplane seat upgrades and hotel room upgrades. If there's any hole in the hotels' view, that's it.

Hear me out:

The free booze and better meal service are certainly perks, but most people I've met upgrade their airplane seats for the extra space. Since many airlines' upgrades cost dollars and/or hard-earned miles a traveller can't realistically upgrade on all flights. To guide the rationing process, then, most savvy travellers will use the airlines' seat maps: if the coach cabin is empty or at partial capacity, they pick a decent spot (such as an aisle seat near the front) and take a gamble that they'll have no seating companion so they'll have room to stretch out.

On the other hand if coach is reasonably full, travellers then apply for a seat in business or first. These first passengers are happy because they have more personal space. The airline is happy because they were able to make some cash on the upgrade. And if the flight is overbooked, other passengers are happy because they get the seats vacated by the upgrade crowd.

Three rounds of benefit because one person wanted some breathing room. All of this is brought about by providing the passengers more information in the form of seat maps.

Compare that to a hotel room: at least for the hotels I frequent, while it's possible to request a particular room number there's no guarantee you'll get it. This is because hotel room occupancy changes all the time, be it someone who checks out early or late, or someone who extends their stay at the last minute. Furthermore, unless you're sandwiched between honeymoon couples, having neighbours in a hotel won't impact your personal space.

So all in all, air travellers have better stakes (or at least a more-informed decision) when it comes to their upgrades. Hotel patrons, not so much.

I will give the hotels credit for trying something new. And for being bold about it: unlike the airlines, there was no namby-pamby hand-wringing over the potential insults to people who had paid full price for their premium rooms.

In the meantime, may I make a suggestion: on the booking form, let folks tick a checkbox if they plan to celebrate nuptials or otherwise expect a naughty-fest... Then offer, for a modest fee, to move anyone near them to a different floor.

(Be sure to explain their neighbours' rooms are stocked with plenty of these if they don't get the hint at first.)