Hotel Madness: The Final Four

With two rounds in the books, only the biggest, most annoying and burdensome hotel pet peeves remain in our Hotel Madness tournament. The second round featured some of the tournament’s closest contests and featured one impressive upset. Resort fees squeaked by One-ply toilet paper by a mere 23 votes while the #7 seed Bad water pressure dumped cold water on Bad front desk service’s title hopes. We’re inching closer to crowning our champion and learning just which hotel nuisance bothers you the most.

Our two Final Four match-ups are listed below. As always, vote for the ones that bother you the most. The two winners will advance to the championship round to battle it out for Hotel Madness glory ignominy. Be sure to vote in both polls and check back to see who wins.

#1 No free Wi-Fi vs. #4 Resort Fees
Our number one seed continued its dominating run in the second round. No one seems to want to pay for internet access. However, it has yet to face an opponent that also attacks our wallets. That run ends now. The #4 seed Resort fees was far from impressive in the second round but continued to show that hotel guests don’t like added fees, especially when those fees are so ambiguous. So, is it worse to pay for internet access or for whatever the heck resort fees cover?

#3 Expensive parking vs. #7 Bad water pressure
Showing just how much people detest paying extra for anything while traveling, our #3 seed coasted into the Final Four. Since many trips simply require a car, guests seem to resent being forced to pay for parking. Meanwhile, the biggest surprise of the second round was #7 Bad water pressure simply annihilating the #2 seed Bad front desk service. Clearly, people value their showers. Whether you’re on a beach vacation or need to look good for business meetings, you need your shower to be on top of its game. Well, which grinds your gears more?

Final Four voting ends at 11:59EDT on Wednesday, March 30.

Catch up on all of the Hotel Madness first and second round action:
The entire second round
#1 No free Wi-Fi vs. #16 Annoying hotel TV channel
#2 Bad front desk service vs. #15 Everything about TV remotes
#4 Resort fees vs. #13 Early housekeeping visits
#5 No airport shuttle vs. #12 One-ply toilet paper
#6 No free breakfast vs. #11 Expensive minibars
#7 Bad water pressure vs. #10 Small towels
#8 Room not ready on time vs. #9 Early checkout times

Follow along with the Hotel Madness tournament here.

JetBlue in-flight internet access coming in 2012, worth the wait?

JetBlue is going to offer in-flight internet access! This is exciting news, right? JetBlue is one of the more exciting airlines in the market right now, having figured out how to offer solid customer service without jacking up fares (a combination the major carriers believe is impossible to attain … despite the fact that JetBlue has done so). So, the airline is getting into the internet game, a space in which it has lagged many other carriers.

Unfortunately, JetBlue isn’t going to begin installing the equipment until the middle of 2012, as it needs to be checked out and approved by the FAA before the airline can put it into production, according to FlightGlobal. The slow start might actually work to JetBlue’s advantage.

Rather than implement the solutions already out on the market, JetBlue has selected a different type of internet access technology, which should translate to better internet service for its passengers – which pairs well with the high levels of customer service the airline already offers. Unlike existing internet access systems, which interact with the ground, the JetBlue system will hit satellites. JetBlue CEO Dave Barger explains to FlightGlobal:

“In just the three years since we launched BetaBlue, the first commercial aircraft with simple messaging capability, technology has advanced by generations. Rather than invest in current technology, designed to transmit broadcast video and audio, we elected to partner with ViaSat to create broadband functionality worthy of today’s interactive personal technology needs.”

Barger also says, “This system will be designed for the 21st century, not just for today’s personal connectivity needs, but with the bandwidth to expand to meet tomorrow’s needs as well.”

[Via Business Insider]

Hilton gives free internet access by status

The elites get free internet access at Hiltons, and the rest can eat cake … which is how it should be. The hotel company has decided to reward its best customers with this perk, which translates to between $10 and $15 a night in value. To qualify, you need to be gold-level or above. Internet access is one of the more unpopular extra charges, especially for business travelers who have no choice but to incur it. For Hilton, tying the waived fee to status provides an easy way to experiment with easing up on the fee while keeping it contained.

Jeff Diskin, a Hilton senior executive for customer marketing, “Business travelers rank quality, high-speed internet access as one of the most important guest room attributes.” He adds, “By giving complimentary internet access to our Hilton HHonors Gold and Diamond members globally, we will meet our guests’ evolving demands.”

Marriott elite members get free Internet – the rest of us can still pay for it

Starting May 7th, all gold and platinum members of the Marriott Rewards frequent guest program will get free Internet access when they stay at a Marriott, JW Marriott or Renaissance hotel.

All other Marriott properties already offer free Internet access for all their guests, so if you are staying at a Courtyard, Fairfield Inn, Springhill Suites, Residence Inn or TownePlace Suites, you won’t need to worry about being elite enough to get online for free.

This of course raises the question why Marriott can’t offer Internet for free, for everyone? The three hotels brands within the chain that still charge for Internet access are the “upscale” brands – and you’d expect the more expensive rooms to come with free access.

I’ve written about this before – in my opinion, every hotel should offer Internet for free to all its guests. By offering access for free to elite guests, Marriott gets one step closer to this, but this still leaves plenty of guests that will need to fork over some of their cash just to get online. It never ceases to amaze me how hotels tend to ignore this important perk.

Business travelers on the brink of scoring free internet access

Having to pay for internet access in hotels is nothing more than moronic. If the revenue is such a big deal, hotels should just slap the $9.99 — or whatever it is — onto the room rate and tell us they’re giving it away for nothing. But, nothing’s worse than spending $250 a night and having to pay another fee to connect to the web, which you’re going to have to do even if you’re on vacation, let alone traveling for business.

The slump in the travel business is giving business travelers more negotiating leverage, which they are using to score free access to the web. The need to put heads in beds, and business travelers still command the big budgets. Back in my corporate travel days, I’d spend $1,000 or more simply on the room … every week. Most leisure travelers don’t come near that on an annual basis — and my spend was modest compared to executives with the approval to satisfy more discriminating tastes.

So, you’d think hotels would want to keep business travelers happy, right? And since internet access is what’s most important to this group of hotel buyersSome upscale hotels, like the new Andaz chain from Hyatt, are rolling internet access into their rates, while major chains such as Hilton, Marriott and Starwood are giving in to business traveler demands but not changing their policies (to avoid setting a precedent they’ll be stuck with when the market recovers).

For the hotel business, giving up the internet money isn’t easy. The industry is at its 20-year low point, with revenue per available room-night (RevPAR) off 17 percent last year. The top properties suffered RevPAR declines of 24 percent. So, when Toni Hinterstoisser, general manager of the Andaz Wall Street, calls internet access charges “an easy way to make money,” it’s clear that the fee is a hard one to give up. Easy money is the best kind when the travel market is in the tank.