It has been more than a year since the marriage of Marriott and Starwood was finally approved and it’s fair to question where we stand. I was amongst the people who may have gotten a bit too excited when Marriott and SPG rolled out some customer-friendly changes pretty much immediately. Plenty of exciting things must be on the horizon, right?
Mergers of this size take time, many systems need to be integrated. The red tape involved is almost unfathomable. One of the best stats to illustrate this is a number Maya Liebman, CIO of American Airlines has referred to in the past. When US Airways and American Airlines merged, they had over 700 instances where two systems would need to merge. Now that a year’s worth of water has passed under the Marriott/SPG bridge, what do we know that we didn’t last year? Not much.
Will Marriott and SPG become one loyalty program? If so, when? When will a stay at a Marriott hotel count towards status with SPG, or vice versa?
These are all good questions. I think it’s fair to assume we would have received some answers by now. I’m especially surprised there’s been no news at all on a timeline of when the two chains will consider the sum total of a customer’s business at both chains when evaluating what elite status level they’ve earned.
The vexing part here is that figuring that out shouldn’t be hard. Follow me for just a minute. Marriott and SPG have the plumbing to link your accounts and status match. That means they have a subset of customers who they have verified which accounts match which. Running database queries on that combined list isn’t hard. What happens next might be difficult.
At that point, you’d have two numbers. Edward Pizzarello had 10 nights at Marriott properties last year and 45 nights at Starwood properties (not real numbers, but let’s go with it). Now, someone needs to tell the computer that this customer is at the 50-night elite level. Maybe that’s a complicated process. Maybe there’s some opportunity for some fraud/mistakes if a manual upgrade process is in place.
But, isn’t it worth it to try putting something in place?
It would be nice for those who do not have lifetime status if there were a way to combine stays at both chains toward earning annual elite status. However, I have LT Plat in Marriott and LT Gold in Starwood, so because of the linking I have Plat status and perqs in both programs.
I’m a bit more interested in what’s going to happen with the credit cards. As I understand it, I can use the SPG AMEX to pay charges in Marriott properties and get bonus Starpoints that equate to (and can be converted to) 3 Marriott Rewards points each — a much better deal than the 5 points per dollar you earn when using the Chase Marriott VISA to pay the bill. Will all the business go to the SPG AMEX, or will Chase increase the bonus for using the Chase VISA on stays?