Why aren’t more hotels charging early check-in fees?

Let me start by saying that this article is not meant to give ideas to hotels. Rather, it’s about talking about a situation I have recently faced and how surprised I am that it doesn’t happen more often.

We all know there is a lot of nickel and diming in the hospitality industry. Just look at the resort, destination and facility “fees” that we’ve seen added at so many hotels.

In that sense, I’m surprised that most hotels don’t try to better monetize early check-in.

Most hotels will allow you to check in early

All hotels have published arrival and departure times. I find that a large majority of hotels allow you to check in early at no additional cost, as long as a room is available.

What time can you check in? It varies, but generally, once the night audit is complete (early in the morning), front desk agents are able to check you in, depending on availability.

While hotels usually allow you to check in early, it’s incredibly rare that they allow you to check out much later than the published times. Your elite status may allow you a late check-out at 2 p.m. or 4 p.m., but it rarely happens that a hotel will allow you to check out at no additional cost at 8 p.m., for example, even if the room would otherwise be empty.

I was recently charged for an early check-in

A few days ago we stayed at Johannesburg InterContinental Airport (review coming soon) and arrived around 10am. The friendly front desk worker informed us that “we have rooms ready, but a ZAR 500 charge applies if you check in by 2:00 PM”. By the way, that’s about $ 33.

At first I was caught off guard as I couldn’t remember the last time I was asked to pay to check in earlier. But then I also thought to myself that it wasn’t a completely unreasonable amount to spend on early check-in, and I can’t fault the hotel for charging it.

Why is it not more common?

Like I said at the start of the article, I’m not writing this to encourage hotels to add these fees. Rather, the post is meant to share my surprise as this is the first time I can remember being charged such fees.

It is potentially an additional source of income for a hotel. Of course, it doesn’t cost the hotel anything extra to provide free early check-in, but shouldn’t the same be said for a 11pm check-out if the room would otherwise be empty?

Logically, this could even potentially (somehow) benefit customers:

  • Those who value early check-in the most might pay the premium, rather than being purely on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • While some hotel loyalty programs offer early check-in subject to availability as an elite perk, in reality this is not much of a perk since they generally offer it to everyone.

Earlier this year, Hyatt introduced confirmed early check-in and late check-out for a fee at many of their properties. It’s a bit in that sense, but not completely, since it’s confirmed in advance, rather than based on availability during your stay.

Has anyone else surprised that more hotels are so strict on check-out time, but not at all on check-in time?

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About Mohammed B. Hale

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