Bizarro Bonvoyed: How Marriott Award Availability Works In Practice

There’s been a lot of chatter about Marriott’s Bonvoy program lately. Specifically about whether they play games with award availability and what their “no blackout” policy actually means.

I recently ran into a case where a property showed award availability…when it was sold out for cash stays. I’ll call this being Bizarro Bonvoyed.

Sold Out for Cash Stays

The Residence Inn New York The Bronx at Metro Center Atrium is currently sold out for a one night stay on May 17th:

bizarro bonvoyed

Bizarro Bonvoyed: Awards *are* available the same night?

However, if you want to stay with points there is availability, which is bizarre.

Call to Confirm

I wanted to secure the booking for a family member who doesn’t have any Marriott points (smart family member) so I called the Marriott Titanium Elite line (bizarrely I have Titanium status with Marriott, I don’t know why).

I was on hold for 10 minutes and gave up and called the regular reservations line. An agent picked right up (this was bizzaro in itself, the hold time on the elite line being longer than the standard line).

I asked the rep if she saw the same as I did. That the hotel was sold out, yet they have award availability. She said yes, she saw the same thing.

I said, “That’s strange, isn’t it? The hotel is sold out yet there are awards available?”.

She said: “Not strange at all. We have a no blackout policy on awards.

Just to be clear: A no blackout policy generally means that if standard rooms are available you should be able book them with points. In this case there was award availability when the hotel was sold out. This is bizarre.

Since my family member didn’t have any points I instead booked a cash stay by leveraging Marriott’s 48 hour guarantee whereby you can force cash availability when a hotel is sold out. I booked a points stay for myself.

What’s Going on Here?

I thought perhaps my status with Marriott was “forcing” award availability similar to what can happen with Hilton.

That’s not it: If I log out of my Marriott account I still see the availability.

I think it’s just an example of Marriott IT incompetence especially during this ongoing transition.

We did some checks at more desirable properties and didn’t see similar occurances. We saw situations more like this in our searches:

See: Losing Trust: Marriott Blocked Award Availability; Now It Magically Re-Appears After Prices Increase

Bottom Line

A lot of us are being Bonvoyed. We talked about it at length in Episode 18 of the Subscriber version of our podcast.

When an airline, hotel or bank is bungling things be on the lookout for cases where they might make mistakes in your favor. You could go from being Bonvoyed to instead in a Bizarro Bonvoyed situation.

About the author

– Written by Robert Dwyer, contributor at Milenomics. Connect with me on Twitter @RobertDwyer


  1. I just checked out Very depressing/entertaining. When your new brand has become a negative verb only one month after launch it is probably time to regroup.

  2. 🙁 Still an interesting anecdote but I though you were going to propose a rationale explanation for the apparent predeval blackout. Now that would be something!

    1. Rational + Marriott = Does Not Compute.

      I’m sure in 2-3 years we’ll have to remind people about all of this… and the program will be back in most people’s good graces. But if you’re in it right now, boy it really stinks.

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