If Your Flight is Delayed or Cancelled, Will the Hotel Waive Its Cancellation Penalty? As always, it depends on the individual hotel, but there are steps you can take to maximize your chance of having penalties waived.
Recently one of my clients had his original flight cancelled, due to bad weather, and his new flight, which would only depart the next morning, meant he wouldn't make the first night of his two night reservation. Normally that would mean he'd be charged 1 night + tax, as he was within 24 hours of arrival, and any cancellation of the first night within that time period would be charged 1 night + tax.
When I explained the situation to the hotel (a Shangri-La property) the front desk said the charge would be waived if:
- My client provided documentation of the original flight's cancellation; and
- He arrived at regular check-in time or later for the one night he would be staying at the property (e.g. requesting an early morning check-in would mean paying for the previous night and paying for the originally booked reservation)
This is reasonable, since while a hotel should want to help guests truly impacted by flight cancellation, if there were no requirements attached, anyone could claim this to try to get out of a confirmed reservation, say to switch to a last minute deal at a different hotel.
Tips When a Flight Delay or Cancellation May Make Your Hotel Reservation Moot
1. Book at a Hotel with a 24 Hour or Less Cancellation Penalty
Many mass market hotels have gone to a 2-3 day cancellation policy, for example Hyatt has a 2 day cancellation policy, and Marriott, Starwood and Hilton also have 2 day cancellation policies. Some St. Regis and Ritz-Carlton U.S. properties such as the St. Regis San Francisco and Ritz-Carlton San Francisco have a 3 day cancellation policy. Most Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental, Peninsula, and Shangri-La city hotels have a 1 day cancellation policy, and some Sofitel and Accor properties enable you to cancel up until 4-6pm the day of arrival without penalty.
In my experience, luxury hotels with a 24 hour cancellation policy are more likely to waive the cancellation penalty for a flight cancellation or delay, than are hotels that have a 2 or 3 day cancellation policy.
2. Reserve the Hotel with TravelSort or Your Luxury Travel Advisor, Not via an OTA
If you book the hotel via Expedia or another 3rd party online travel agency (OTA), you will need to cancel via that site, not via the hotel directly. The last thing you probably want to do when rearranging everything after a flight delay is to be on hold for a long time with an OTA.
If instead you reserved the hotel with TravelSort or your luxury travel advisor, this counts as a direct booking, and your advisor will be able to liaise directly with the hotel to ask that your reservation be changed without penalty, due to your flight delay. Plus, you'll enjoy all the benefits, such as Four Seasons Preferred Partner, Peninsula Pen Club, Mandarin Oriental Fan Club, Shangri-La Luxury Circle, Virtuoso, etc. benefits that you only receive by booking through a preferred partner luxury travel advisor, instead of the hotel directly. See 5 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Book a Hotel Directly (and Not with a Third Party OTA Either).
3. Make the Hotel Reservation with a Chase Sapphire Reserve Card
If you make the hotel reservation with a Chase Sapphire Reserve card, not only will you earn 3X Ultimate Rewards points on the reservation; if for whatever reason the hotel isn't willing to waive the 1 night + tax penalty for cancelling or shortening your hotel reservation, and the flight cancellation or change is due to severe weather, then this charge would be covered by the card's Trip Cancellation and Trip Interruption insurance benefit.
4. Call the Hotel (or Have Your Travel Advisor Call) As Soon As You Know of the Cancellation or Delay
Be sure to call the hotel (or have your travel advisor call) as soon as you know that the flight cancellation or delay will mean that you won't get there at all for the first night of your confirmed reservation, or if the flight delay will mean you arrive late night, such that the hotel might assume you're a no show and give away your room.
Also be very clear about what you're seeking. Are you keeping the rest of your reservation, and just want the hotel to shorten your reservation by one night? Does the flight cancellation mean you won't be able to make the trip at all, and need to cancel the entire reservation? Or will you be arriving in the middle of the night, and just need the hotel to protect your reservation, so that it doesn't assume you're a no show and give away your room to someone else?
If you've had a flight cancellation or delay affect a hotel reservation within the hotel's penalty period, did the hotel accommodate your request for a change and waive the penalty?
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