As we had first learned last week, Marriott Bonvoy has now eliminated the Air & Hotel Travel Packages as of January 19, 2022, and has communicated a few updates for holders of existing travel packages.
What Are Marriott Air & Hotel Travel Packages?
In the years leading up to their purge, Air & Hotel Travel Packages had served a fairly niche role in the overall Marriott Bonvoy strategy.
Bonvoy points can be redeemed for free hotel nights, and can also be transferred to 40+ airline partners at an optimal ratio of 60,000 points = 25,000 miles for a good value too.
Indeed, Marriott Bonvoy is often considered a useful program for earning miles with airline loyalty programs that are otherwise hard to access, like Asiana Club, JAL Mileage Bank, or Korean Air SKYPASS.
The Air & Hotel Travel Packages offered some savings when you’re planning to redeem Bonvoy points for both a seven-night hotel stay and a handsome sum of airline miles.
The reward chart looked as follows:
As you can see, you were able to trade in a given number of Bonvoy points for a voucher for a consecutive seven-night stay at a given hotel category, plus 50,000 or 100,000 airline miles in the program of your choosing (or 55,000 or 110,000 miles in the case of United MileagePlus).
This is a one-time transaction that can’t be reversed; you earn both the seven-night hotel package and the airline miles at the time of the transaction, and you typically have one year to redeem the hotel certificate for a seven-night stay.
For example, let’s say you wanted to book a seven-night stay at a Category 5 property, and convert 240,000 Bonvoy points into 100,000 airline miles.
Ordinarily, the seven-night hotel stay would cost you 35,000 × 6 = 210,000 Bonvoy points, factoring in the Fifth Night Free benefit. Adding the 240,000 Bonvoy points, both transactions in total would cost you 450,000 Bonvoy points.
Instead, you could redeem 390,000 Bonvoy points for a Category 5 seven-night certificate plus 100,000 airline miles, thus saving yourself a considerable sum of 60,000 Bonvoy points.
You’d even unlock greater savings if you happened to plan your hotel stay during peak dates. The seven-night Category 5 hotel stay would cost you 40,000 × 6 = 240,000 Bonvoy points, plus 240,000 points for the airline transfer for a total of 480,000 points.
By using 390,000 points for the travel package instead, you’re unlocking a very respectable savings of 90,000 points.
The Final Chapter for an All-Time Great Deal
While the elimination of Air & Hotel Travel Packages wasn’t too much to get worked up about because of the limited value in the first place, it did represent a sad ending for a favourite sweet spot among Marriott loyalists who have been around from a few years ago.
The words “Marriott travel packages” will surely bring about fond memories for anyone who’s been in the game since 2018, the days of the Marriott & Starwood merger, before “Bonvoy” was ever a thing.
Under the old program, these air and hotel packages were extremely favourably priced. Combined with the ease of earning of Starwood’s SPG Starpoints at the time, and those were some very pleasant days of converting 180,000 Amex MR points into 270,000 Marriott points and then into a seven-night hotel stay plus 120,000 airline miles.
Indeed, I myself had kept a seven-night hotel certificate from all the way back in 2018 still active in my Marriott Bonvoy account, mostly because of the program’s continued extension of Free Night Awards through the pandemic.
What Will Happen to Existing Hotel Certificates?
At the same time as eliminating Air & Hotel Travel Packages on January 19, 2022, Marriott Bonvoy has communicated a few policies around existing seven-night hotel certificates that are sitting in members’ accounts.
If you attach a certificate to an upcoming reservation, it’ll continue to be honoured as usual, as long as the reservation is booked by February 28, 2022 (even if the stay takes place after that).
From March 1, 2022 onwards (which is presumably the official date that the move to dynamic pricing and the elimination of hotel categories kicks in), the hotel certificates associated with Air & Hotel Travel Packages will no longer be valid.
Any unattached certificates as of this date will be refunded to Bonvoy members in the form of Marriott Bonvoy points, as will any certificates that are detached from a reservation after this date.
How is the refund calculated? Well, for once, Marriott Bonvoy is being fairly generous with their policies here. The points returned to members’ accounts will be the current peak pricing amount of the certificate’s maximum category, multiplied by the number of nights.
This means that if you currently have a seven-night certificate at a Category 4 hotel sitting in your Bonvoy account, you’ll receive a refund of 30,000 × 7 = 210,000 Bonvoy points.
This is certainly among the more generous ways that Marriott Bonvoy could’ve dealt with this situation, and I, for one, am quite pleased with this outcome.
I’ll obviously prefer to take the 210,000 Bonvoy points over a rather inflexible certificate that must be used for a seven-night consecutive stay at a rather limited selection of Category 4 properties with a June 2022 expiry date.
(This also means that I made out quite handsomely on my Air & Hotel Travel Package back in 2018. Back then, I had exchanged 270,000 Marriott Rewards points for 120,000 Alaska miles plus this seven-night certificate, which means that I’ve effectively traded in 60,000 Marriott points for 120,000 Alaska miles. Knowing what we know now, I really wish I had kept more of these hotel certificates around!)
It’s of course still disappointing that the refunded points will only be redeemable in a new era of dynamic pricing, and I’ll absolutely be looking to maximize their value during the rest of 2022, when ~97% of properties will remain at their current levels.
Marriott has eliminated the Air & Hotel Travel Packages as of this week. These redemptions haven’t offered too much value for a while, so their loss isn’t much to lament; instead, it’s simply another sign that Marriott’s focus appears to be on stripping value away from the loyalty program rather than adding to it.
At the very least, holders of existing hotel certificates from the Air & Hotel Travel Packages will be refunded on a rather generous basis when the hotel category system goes away as of March 1, 2022.