Opinion: New IHG Terms Are Part of Anti-Consumer Trends With Award Bookings Opinion: New IHG Terms Are Part of Anti-Consumer Trends With Award Bookings

Opinion: New IHG Terms Are Part of Anti-Consumer Trends With Award Bookings

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Few people pay attention to the minutiae of changes in award program terms and conditions. A snippet added here. A deleted phrase there. These often don't matter much.

One recent change, however, deserves attention. It's part of a growing trend that combines the worst of dynamic pricing (where you don't know how many points/miles you'll need for an upcoming award redemption) with the worst of anti-consumer behavior (where you think you've found a great price, only to have your booking canceled).

If we don't know what the price should be, how can we know when a redemption is the “wrong price?” Here's what's going on.

IHG One Rewards Changes Terms

You're probably not using software to track changes to award program terms as we are. So, you'll be forgiven for not noticing a change to the IHG One Rewards terms in Section V, paragraph 47:

“In the event of an erroneously published Reward Night point price, IHG One Rewards reserves the right to cancel the booking and refund the points. Members will be notified in the event that this occurs.”

This is the same section discussing how to redeem your points for hotel stays.

The problem is that this new phrase allows IHG to cancel “an erroneously published” price. But IHG One Rewards doesn't publish award prices. Without an award chart, how should consumers spot incorrect prices?

The InterContinental Cozumel

Why This Is a Bad Trend for Award Travelers

To be clear, IHG is not the only program that cancels reservations it thinks are too cheap. Air France is notorious for canceling tickets it says were “accidentally” sold at a price it later deems to be too low. And ANA recently reneged after selling business class tickets from Southwest Asia to the U.S.

While some people may hunt for these bargains meticulously, the average consumer may think they've simply stumbled on a deal. Without a defined price list, how will consumers know a right price from a wrong price? Airlines and hotels no longer operate like restaurants, providing menus with clearly-indicated prices.

Dynamic pricing makes it impossible to know what the “normal” price is. For context, American Airlines and Marriott also switched to this “search and find out” pricing method recently.

If we don't know how many points or miles we need for a flight or a hotel stay, how will we know if the price is too low in the eyes of the loyalty program? That's especially unfair if you book directly with the hotel or airline itself (as is required when using points and miles). And then the hotel/airline later says it has canceled your reservation because you paid too little? Come on.

Conversely, how will we know if dynamic pricing has gone too far in the other direction? If the price was “too high,” will the airline take or hotel take the same approach, canceling my reservation and allowing me to rebook at the “correct” (lower) price? Will someone contact me to refund some of my points to make up for the “erroneously published” price? I doubt it, and that's my biggest issue — the reason I call it anti-consumer — since it will never work in our favor with award redemptions.

What Does IHG Say About These Changes?

We reached out to IHG to ask about these new terms. Our question was how travelers should know what a wrong price is without a published award chart. A spokesperson for IHG said,

“This is a precautionary term, and was added strictly to be able to quickly address rare situations where point prices are published with extremely low or high irrational and incorrect amounts.”

Thus, if a price seems too good to be true or results in overbooking as people scramble to grab a mistake price, IHG wants people to know these reservations could be canceled.

Bottom Line

I'm very wary of IHG putting it in writing that it can cancel “erroneously” priced awards without providing clarity on what the correct award prices should be. With dynamic pricing in airline and hotel programs, we don't really know what the correct price is. Since the price changes, how will we know if it's right or wrong?

After booking a hotel or flight, people make other travel arrangements: scheduling a taxi to the airport, booking non-refundable tours, etc. Imagine the shock people feel when their flights or hotel rooms are canceled because the “deal” they found is now labeled an “error.”

I consider it highly unlikely that we'll ever see cancelations for prices being too high by mistake, and it's very anti-consumer for programs to cancel our award reservations after deciding the price was too low. That's doubly true when they don't tell us the correct prices in the first place, now that they've eliminated award charts.

What do you make of these changes? Which programs are doing right by award travelers?

4.7 / 5 - (12 votes)
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  • IHG members are themselves to blame for choosing a second rate program.
    I find Marriott Hilton and Hyatt to b the best. The others are all second tier.
    My souse has Diamond and it is relatively useless.

    • Ryan Smith says:

      Josh, others would argue that the program provides good value for them. You’re welcome to dislike a program, but to be fair I’m a Marriott Titanium Elite and I can still admit that Bonvoy does some customer-unfriendly stuff.

  • Chris Thomas says:

    Taurus Excretus !

  • Mohand Abdelli says:

    IHG is still one of the best fidelity programs out there unlike freaking Radisson who deprived me of more than 150,000 points in the middle of a pandemic! How many others suffered the same fate?. I reached out ad nauseam to their Customer Service who say they informed me by email of the expiry of my points. Of course I never received an email. To make things worse they told me all I needed was to buy $7 worth of points for my points total to be protected. Clearly I am the kind of stupid person who would rather let 152,000 points expire than spend $7. Radisson CS did offer as a gesture of GoodWill 25,000 points which the Managers of their North America Program can gracefully shove where light never shines. As for me I will forever avoid anything close the Radisson and its partners.