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Why hotels are still learning from the airlines – who take another step ahead…

and why real hospitality still works in hotels

A traveller’s guest experience in hotels and airlines while travelling to HITEC in USA.

I stayed in a hotel in Boston (a very nice one via Expedia who managed to offer me a 4/5 Star Hotel for three nights and save me £100 versus a well-known major hotel group via their Loyalty Club staying at 3 / 4 star hotel in a worse location – but that is another issue…see 'Flash Sales' separately).

This hotel, in Financial District, was nice despite the lobby refurbishment. I had to pay extra for my wi-fi – again another debate.

I wanted to watch the Spain vs. France game on ESPN2, listed as Channel 18 on the Hotel TV System. When I tuned into this it was showing a French TV Channel. I phoned down to complain – was kept waiting by reception for 15 minutes (busy check-in apparently) at which point I went downstairs where they were now chatting as they had cleared the arrivals but still had me on hold…

They promised to send a maintenance man up to check that I had indeed pressed Channel 18 on the remote. The Maintenance man duly arrived – checked that I had correctly selected Channel 18 and that it indeed was tuned to a French TV channel. He left saying he would go and see what could be done and get back to me – which he never did. The channel changed about 24 hours later – by which time I had gone down the road to one of many Irish bars in Boston showing the game. (There was another incident regarding a fire alarm where all the hotel residents were being evacuated while wedding guests remained in their function room.)

The next day we were flying from Boston to Baltimore with JetBlue – a new kind of budget airline in the US – extra cost per bag after first bag though, but as promised.

Our flight was delayed which they kept us regularly informed about – and this was while the England vs. Italy game was about to start. I realised this and so went to the desk and asked if the Captain would be so kind as to provide any score updates during the match. They smiled and said – “no need for that Sir – you can watch it live on the plane”. I said words to the effect of “no – really?” They very kindly brought me out a sheet showing the channel listings of all 34 live TV feeds available on the plane, including ESPN. I imagined this would be the day when it would not work – but sure enough I spent the next 70 minutes watching live football on my airline seat TV – while others watched live Baseball – bizarrely from Baltimore to where we were heading! (Apparently this was DirectTV – a US digital TV service - plumbed straight into the aircraft entertainment system).

We landed with 10 minutes left – picked up baggage and dived into a taxi while various friends and colleagues text me the score (or lack of it) and other updates.

We arrived within one mile of the Baltimore Hilton – where the baseball crowd was disgorging after the end of the game – so we spent 15 minutes looking at our hotel without being able to get into it!

I dived into the hotel praying for a rapid check-in as penalties loomed large.

Ricardo, at the Hilton Reception, told me there was no room available quite yet other than a Disabled Room (which we declined). He then offered me a $25 drinks voucher – walked us over to the bar and made sure they switched the TV over to ESPN – so that I could endure the torture of watching England go out of a major international tournament in time-honoured-tradition while a well-known Australian hospitality IT consultant cackled away behind me (just happened to be in the bar when I arrived...more bad luck).

The only compensation for all this was that while finishing at the bar – Ricardo came over to give me our room key - and provided me a card for ‘free internet access’ for the duration of the stay as a way of saying sorry. We noticed later that he was always there at reception and always remembered my name when we needed directions into Baltimore.

Ricardo made up for a problem with real hospitality - and I will remember that hotel and service for it – and I will always recommend JetBlue. The other upmarket hotel in Boston – not so much.

So my questions are:

How can a moving jet aeroplane with 160 or so people get the right live TV channel but a 4/5 Star static hotel not be able to get their channels correct (part of the answer I suspect was that it was at the weekend)?

How does one hotel compensate for a problem with instant solutions and hospitality – and the other (more upmarket hotel and full of smiles) cannot?

My own views:

  • The airlines have taken a technological jump again to which hotels and hospitality must aspire.

  • Technology if offered to guests must work – even at the weekend!

  • Staff must recognise a problem and deal with it before it becomes an issue.

  • I recommend finding more staff like Ricardo!


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