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The integration of Marriott and Starwood’s loyalty programs, which was supposed to fall into place cleanly over the weekend, is getting off to a turbulent start.
Multiple users through the weekend and on Monday morning reported issues with the merged system, from the inability to log in to elite status and point balances not showing correctly. At publication, a status page on Marriott.com reported that “reservations, members accounts, and other major systems functionality are online at this time, but you may experience intermittent issues or delays.” Various attempts to log into the system, however, failed with the message of “this service is temporarily unavailable. But don’t worry, we’re on it. Please try again later.”
“We are working quickly and diligently to solve all issues that have been identified. Given the complexities of a huge integration like this, we prefer not to give deadlines, but rest assured that are completely on top any issue that has arisen,” said John Wolf, vice president of loyalty, digital marketing and innovation PR at Marriott.
When asked about placating anxious loyalty enthusiasts, Wolf added: “Bringing together our loyalty programs under one set of benefits represents an exciting time for our members who now have endless inspiration to travel and experience the world to create lasting memories.”
Meanwhile, SPG.com, the former homepage of Starwood Preferred Guest, was successfully directing to a Marriott.com domain, however.
Perhaps the biggest problem reported from users has been inaccurate reported statistics around a member’s elite status credentials. Multiple users on the web have found that upon logging in, the number of combined annual “stays” earned annually for elite status between Marriott and Starwood has been wrong. Others reported that credits towards lifetime status had been tallied incorrectly. Earlier in the weekend, some people just saw “Site upgrade in progress.
While many have reported that when logging in they still haven’t got an option to merge their SPG/MR accounts, Wolf said the issue should be resolved sometime on Monday afternoon. “The accounts combine functionality began rolling out in batches to members and should be completed for all members by (Tuesday),” he said.
Integrating two of the travel industry’s largest loyalty programs into one, clean system was never going to be an easy task. Late in 2015, Skift estimated that Marriott Rewards and Ritz Carlton Rewards together had 54 million members in their loyalty ranks while Starwood had another 21 million. Merging all of those account numbers and passwords to one system would alone be a difficult task, but the IT team at Marriott also has to covert the outstanding body of Starwood points into Marriott points and then reprice the thousands of hotels in each brand’s portfolio onto the same currency.
Adding to the stress of the situation is a small group points enthusiasts who are eager to redeem award nights with their new currency. On Sunday, Summer Hull at The Points Guy reported that luxury properties – many which are priced better with the new combined currency – were starting to come online with the new booking engine. That post triggered a wave of enthusiasts trying to book open inventory and running into a litany of IT issues.
Support phone lines, meanwhile, have been swamped as many turn to legacy channels for booking rooms or customer engagement. One Twitter user had been hung up on three time and was facing 25-minute hold times. Others have been more hostile.
As with all loyalty program integrations, these disruptions are expected — after all, it took years for United and Continental to fully merge their programs. Later this week, there’s little doubt that the new, combined systems will be up and running smoothly. Those anxious to make award bookings or account updates early this week, however, may have to be patient.
UPDATED: This story was updated to include comments from Marriott’s John Wolf.