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Seriously?! My Abysmal Award Redemption Experience

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Sonesta Award Redemption

Sonesta Award Redemption

I have a good chunk of Sonesta points expiring soon.  That’s not a brag.  I’ve come close to full circle with this award currency that I first picked up a few years ago.  The pandemic (among other things) affected our planned redemptions, and I’m now just ready to be done with these points.  The good news is I’ve redeemed them for an upcoming reservation at an intriguing property in one of my favorite destinations – more on that in a future article.  The bad news is it’s an unnecessarily laborious path to using these points.  In my view, Sonesta award redemption isn’t ready for primetime.  Here’s hoping you never deal with the following nonsense.

Antique Sonesta Award Redemption

Sonesta lists their properties and redemption rates online – enjoy!  Want to book an award online, though?  Not so fast.  That’s simply an unreasonable assumption to make with Sonesta’s Travel Pass loyalty program.  Booking a Sonesta award online is not possible.  A Travel Pass member must call Sonesta to make an award reservation.  The first time I spoke with an agent, I inquired about this limitation.  The rep simply issued a cop-out, one I shouldn’t dare question.  “Security reasons,” I recall the agent stating.  Apparently, all those other hotel loyalty programs don’t take security as seriously as Sonesta.   hours are 8 am to 10 pm ET daily.  name, telephone number, travel pass number, and reason for call.

Cancel Online?  Not Really.

Due to changing commitments, I needed to cancel my first reservation with Sonesta.  Unlike making a reservation, it appeared I had the option to cancel online.  Things were going okay:

Sonesta Award Redemption

But after clicking Cancel Reservation, I was taken to a blank page which never loaded anything.  This happened across different internet browsers on desktop and mobile.  Upon returning to the Sonesta site, I noticed my original reservations intact.  So cancelling award reservations online doesn’t seem to be an actual option, either, based on my experience.

Leave a Voicemail – For Real

I called a bit after 10 pm ET a few days later to take care of the award cancellation and rebooking.  Sonesta greeted me with an automated message and advised they were closed.  Calling it an automated message might be too nice – it’s more like a shrill tone followed by a voice telling me to leave my name, phone number, Travel Pass number, and the reason for my call.  The answering machine automated system said an agent would call me back later; I didn’t leave a message and just hung up.

Regardless, perhaps this is a reasonable solution for many.  But I’m calling a (wannabe) major hotel chain, not my local handyman.

Red Lion Redemption?  Nope!

Sonesta acquired Red Lion over two years ago and links to Red Lion on their site.  But the two still seem to be operating different loyalty programs.  Party fact – Red Lion’s loyalty program is called Hello Rewards.  The Sonesta list of properties doesn’t include Red Lion ones, and I cannot log into the Red Lion site with my Sonesta credentials.  In a world where programs have successfully integrated in the past, most recently Choice Privileges and Radisson Rewards Americas, why can’t Sonesta and Red Lion?

One Small Positive

I eventually reached a Sonesta phone agent to make necessary changes to my original reservation.  It turns out I didn’t need to cancel and rebook my award reservation.  Within a minute or two, the agent was able to move my reservation to different dates at the same property and room type, as I requested.  In a world where some chains are unable to change existing reservations (instead requiring cancelling and rebooking), this was a nice surprise.

Sonesta Award Redemption
I picked up all of my Sonesta points with their Bank of America cobranded card. Source: Bank of America.

Sonesta Award Redemption – Conclusion

Sonesta wants to play with the big boys.  In order to do so, their loyalty program must compete across the board, including basic aspects which should be simple to comprehend, like online and phone services.  In my view, their brand offers several attractive properties but also a substantial heap of tired, often rebranded, locations.  A mediocre overall portfolio of properties and a subpar loyalty program experience leads one to question why to even bother with Sonesta.  I doubt I ever will again after I complete this award stay, but I’d be happily convinced otherwise.

Have you dealt with Sonesta recently?  How was your experience?

Disclosure: Miles to Memories has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Miles to Memories and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

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Benjy Harmon
Benjy Harmon
Benjy focuses on the intersection of points, travel, and financial independence (FI). An experienced world traveler, husband, and father, he currently roams throughout the USA close to expense-free. Benjy enjoys helping others achieve their FI and travel goals.

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  1. Incompetent, uncaring executives in corporate office who know shit about running hotels. They are the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin, only minus the humorous satire and lovable characters.

  2. Yes you have to call for most things but have had awesome bookings where the properties really went all out as an Elite – worth a little extra hassle!

    • Pam,
      I’m glad it panned out in your experience. I’m cautiously hoping for the same on my upcoming stay!


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