One thing I have learned in my career in Marketing is that you never want to provide a customer with a reason to try a competitor. Unfortunately, this is what the Springhill Suites in Flagstaff did when it imposed its own 'blackouts' for every weekend in March and April for itself and the Courtyard. I started trying to reserve two night using points starting at the time reservations became available. All March and most April weekends were all blacked out for 2016, so I booked two nights at the nearby Hilton Garden Inn (same category). This turned out to be an excellent property with fantastic customer service. Since I am Hilton Gold due to my Amex, I received a great complimentary breakfast for two every morning, and it was better than the CL breakfast at FS Marriotts. The hotel also offered complimentary transportation in the area, including Amtrak and airport.
We plan to take a similar trip next March and I noticed that the SHS and Courtyard already are blacking out those weekends again for points awards. Unfortunately, Hilton currently is charging a premium at this time for their point awards at the HGI, but at least they are offering that and lower prices. The two Marriott properties don't even have AAA or Senior rate availability. I will stay at the Comfort Suites (where other family members had a great stay) next door before paying $199 per night for a mediocre SHS or Courtyard. I don't understand how these properties are getting away with their self imposed 'blackouts' when there are supposed to be no blackout dates.
This is on Marriott's Site:
"What does it mean to have no blackout dates?"
Hotels have standard rooms available for redemptions every day. Blackout dates traditionally refer to a limited number of dates on which a hotel could choose not to accept redemptions. With our “No Blackout Dates” policy, hotels will no longer have blackout dates for redemptions. Hotels may limit the number of standard rooms available for redemption on a limited number of days.
Now, how many days can they limit this? I am not sure. Nor do I know what percent of standard rooms are limited to redemption stays. I am sorry you are having so much trouble.
When I did my flexible search for these two Flagstaff properties, there were no Friday or Saturday night awards available in March and most of April. So far I have seen the same results this year as last year. It appears management has their own interpretation of 'No Blackout dates' and it would be nice if Marriott enforced their corporate MR policies with Maverick hotels.
Since the same pattern occurred two years in a row when trying to book almost a year in advance, I doubt that every weekend is already booked. "Maverick' for us Boomers is similar to rebel. I kept checking last year to see if anything opened up, but nothing ever did. I was easily able to reserve the HGI and Embassy Suites for award bookings last year for the same number of points.
Did you try contacting the hotel General Manager? I've found that sometimes doing so, explaining very politely that "I'm a Lifetime Platinum, and hope that you might be able to see your way clear to ... " (with the ... including whatever I might be requesting, whether it be a blocked rate or points stay).
I've seldom been turned down, and attribute it to my being very polite, and understanding. If they do honor my request, I always ask for the GM's supervisor at Marriott corporate and send an e-mail thanking the GM for his or her help.
In the past, Blackout dates were dates that redemptions were not available at a property. The new "no Blackout date" policy means that instead of saying no redemptions, there are a reduced number of rooms available on specific dates.
In previous years, a property may have had Blackout dates; let’s just say as example, May 1st through the 5th. This made it so no members could redeem certificates on those dates. The new "No blackout date" policy means instead of May 1st through the 5th not being available for redemption at all, now offers rooms but not as many rooms as other times during the year. The dates when properties can reduce the number of rooms available varies by hotel as do the number of days a property can have under this policy. Please keep in mind there are some dates and locations when there will be no rooms available at all, which are typically during city-wide events such as the Super bowl, Olympics, major sporting events, etc.
We're sorry you're disappointed with the search results for the dates you were interested in March & April, we hope you have more luck with dates available for redemption in the future.
Thanks you for your reply and explanation. I am familiar with the new 'No blackout date' policy and have no problem when there are special events or the redemption rooms have already been booked. However, I find it difficult to believe that Flagstaff had 'special events' every weekend in March and April, 2016, and are already unavailable so far for 2017. Last year, I began checking when reservation period first opened and continued until about 2 months prior to my trip. Luckily, the Hilton properties in the area had good availability for award redemption, so I stayed at the HGI. This property was also rated a lot higher on Trip Advisor than either Marriott property in the area. Since I have substantially more MR points than Hilton, I am considering the SHS again for next year's trip.
My main complaint is that some properties continue to somehow avoid the 'no blackout' rules by never having any availability during weekends or more popular vacation seasons. Flagstaff in March is not exactly a prime event.
I am happy to report that today I was able to use points for a reservation at this hotel for my desired weekend next March. It appears that this property releases their MR point availability later than most, since they weren't available earlier.
I still prefer the Hilton Garden Inn in the area, but they have raised the point cost to 40000 per night (only 30K last year).