IHG Cancels Error Rate Award, Comes Through Big Time

Whether it’s airfare or hotels, it’s always interesting to see how programs handle canceling confirmed reservations, especially when an error rate is involved. Someone who we’ll call “Mike” recently shared his experience with me in which IHG cancelled his confirmed reservation but ended up coming through big time in the end. Here’s how it all played out.

A $5,000 presidential suite on points?

Mike found an amazing deal when searching for a two night stay in Cozumel, Mexico.

When browsing through rooms at the InterContinental Cozumel Presidente Resort & Spa, he found that all rooms, including the presidential suites, were available to book with his free night certificates, which he earned via the Chase IHG credit card.

Mike was traveling with his partner along with another couple so he decided to go for it, since the Sapphire Presidential Suite holds up to four guests. This is a massive 5,620 sq ft. suite with a wooden deck terrace, bar cellar, two pools, etc. It goes for over $5,000/night. 

$5,000+ for the suite!

The award booking went through without a hitch and the quartet was set to stay in a presidential suite for two nights with an arrival date in about four weeks time.

As most of us probably know, these free night awards are usually limited to standard awards although we’ve seen suites (not quite presidential suites) become available recently for many different programs, including IHG.

Related: IHG Free Night Certificate Guide and 40,000 Hotel List

InterContinental Cozumel Presidente Resort & Spa Sapphire Presidential Suite.

Too good to be true?

It turns out this deal was of course too good to be true.

Two weeks after booking, IHG Customer Care contacted Mike and told him that they would be cancelling the free nights due to a “website glitch.” They also told him that he couldn’t have the room due to the language found in the Terms and Conditions. [strikethrough is a glitch]

IHG offered an apology for the cancellation and said they would do the following for Mike:

  • Put him in a standard poolside room
  • Give him back the two free nights
  • Give him 100,000 IHG points

I thought this was a good offer but Mike made a smart move and made a counteroffer. (I also think another smart move by Mike was not making the first offer — you should almost never make the first offer!).

Mike’s counteroffer consisted of the following:

  • Two rooms in either a junior suite or beach facing (one for each couple)
  • Give him back the two free nights
  • Give him 100,000 IHG points
  • Get bumped up from IHG Platinum to Spire Elite for a year

IHG’s response to the counteroffer

IHG scoffed at the counteroffer.

The Customer Care rep reportedly passed the offer onto a supervisor who gave a firm no to all of the above and said their offer was final and told Mike they’d be happy to accommodate him in the presidential suite for $5,000/night. 

Mike insisted that the situation be escalated to someone higher up the chain of command and the rep told him that they would be getting back with him later.

IHG follows up with Mike

A few hours later, IHG contacted Mike again with an update regarding the situation.

They told him that they would honor all of his requests. 

In fact, he had already been upgraded to Spire Elite through 2019 and had been given 100,000 IHG points back in his IHG account. He would then use the two refunded free nights to book a room for the couple traveling with him and IHG would upgrade all of the rooms.

The final outcome

So in the end, IHG cancelled an error rate booking for a $5,000 presidential suite (after waiting two weeks) and in turn offered the following:

  • Two free nights back (but in an upgraded beach facing room)
  • Two additional free nights (which were used for the other couple and also upgraded)
  • 100,000 IHG points
  • IHG Spire Elite for nearly two years

I would say that this was a major win for Mike.

Typically, hotels will do what they can to make a customer happy in a situation like this. This usually consists of offering a comparable hotel stay (for at least one night) when there’s no availability at their hotel and also covering reasonable expenses made in connection with the hotel stay/providing compensation. It’s sort of a fuzzy area and you never quite know what to expect to receive (unless you’re dealing with Marriott).

In this case, IHG went above and beyond those standards, in my opinion. The fact that Mike was given all of this after an error rate was cancelled was surprising to me. (I’ve heard of people getting “walked” on paid stays upon arrival and getting much less than this.)

What to make of this

I think the outcome underscores the importance to properly negotiate for yourself in situations like this.

My advice would be to:

  • Not make the initial offer
  • Always attempt a counteroffer (be reasonable but no need to be shy)
  • Insist on escalating the matter to a supervisor when you feel you’re getting nowhere
  • Be patient — the hotel will probably come through on some level

Final word

It seems that in the vast majority of cases, hotels will be willing to do what they can to make you happy. There’s always the option of getting into a legal confrontation and maybe sending in a demand letter, but I don’t think that’s necessary 99% of the time. Overall, it’s helpful to get insight into how IHG handles this type of cancellation and good to know that IHG values its customers enough to go this far to remedy the situation.