Are more hotels offering free in-room Internet these days in response to the downturn in business travel? Barbara DeLollis reports in USA Today that corporate business travel managers are negotiating with hotel groups to get them to waive their fees for Internet service, which range from $9.95 to $14.95 per day, even when their stated policy is to charge guests for the service.
At InsideFlyer, we asked members of our Advisory Board whether they have noticed an increase in the number of hotels offering free Internet and a few report that they have. One traveler pointed out that as a SPG Platinum member, he receives free Internet access in the Club lounge. Two respondents said they have started subscribing to a monthly wireless service that they use instead of the hotel’s wireless network. Some travelers refuse to pay for Internet and one member believes that “Pressure from travelers will cause the hotels to eliminate [these charges] very soon in my opinion. If there is a charge I always fill out the card or write the hotel and the parent [company] complaining of the charges.” One frequent traveler told us he checked into a hotel that advertised free wireless but was told the service was being switched over and would be unavailable. He checked out and moved to another hotel. Another traveler has found that “if the connection does not work, or is very slow, and I call the front desk immediately, they will usually apologize and give me a free day or days.”
Bottom line: Be sure to join the hotel’s loyalty program. Hyatt Gold Passport (elite members only), Omni Select Guest, Kimpton InTouch and Fairmont President’s Club offer complimentary Internet access to members and Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum members can request free Internet as an amenity when you check in (although this is not always available). Hilton offers free high-speed Internet at many Hilton Garden Inns and Homewood Suites but not at all full-service Hilton properties. Marriott’s Residence Inn, Fairfield Inn, TownePlace Suites, SpringHill Suites and Courtyard properties also have free Internet. Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Candlewood Suites, Hotel Indigo and Staybridge Suites provide complimentary Internet access to guests, but not all Crowne Plaza and InterContinental properties do.
As mentioned above, you can also opt to get an AirCard (also called a mobile broadband card or connect card), which is a device for a laptop, PDA or cell phone that allows the user to connect to wireless Internet access. You can opt to pay for unlimited access (for some cards, around $50 a month) so that you do not have to pay the individual hotels for wireless access. And be sure to let the hotels know what you think about their fee-based Internet policy, especially as a member of the hotel’s loyalty program.