Aeronautical Randomness
The life cycle of airline hotel contracts
August 8, 2011

Airline pilots joke that the quality of our hotels is inversely proportional to the economy.  When things improve, the nicer hotels throw us out.  Yes, “throw us out” may be a little harsh.  But, they do cancel the lodging contract with the airline… often with short notice.  This sends the airline scrambling to find suitable rooms for the crews to rest on layovers.

What does that have to do with the economy?  When times are tough, less people travel.  Hotels are eager to provide great deals to airlines just to keep the rooms full.  When the real customers return, many hotels either demand higher rates from the airlines or simply cancel the contract.  Now, to be fair, not all hotels do this… there are many that have long standing, loyal relationships with our industry.

So, it came as no surprise when I received the e-mail that we would be changing hotels at one of the layover cities.  It was a nice hotel.  The economy must be improving.

Throughout the years, I’ve seen it dozens of times.  I’ve also come to realize that there’s a predictable cycle to airline hotel contracts.  With this cancellation, we have now completed the cycle and prepare to start over with another location.  Please let me explain the evolution of a hotel contract from a crew member’s perspective. I will chronicle fictitious stays in a journal.  If I kept a daily log of visits to a specific hotel, it would look something like this…

Stay One

We’re all excited about the new hotel.  Although our contract just started last week, I’ve already heard the good, bad, and ugly from other crew members.  (It’s too far, it’s too close, the beds are too soft/hard, it was too loud, there’s no McDonald’s nearby… I could write another whole post on hotel issues.)  Walking through the doors, the manager greets us: “Welcome to our hotel!  We’re so thrilled to have you here.”  With our keys, we receive a nice letter from the manager printed in color on some very fancy paper.  It reiterates the verbal welcome and lists all the perks and local attractions.  Manager’s reception for the crew at 5:00pm?  Nice touch.  A free “to-go” breakfast in the morning?  Wow. This place is great.

Stay Two

Two months have passed and I’m back at the hotel.  Wonder where that nice manager went?  Oh well… a nice woman checked us in and gave us our keys.  In the envelope, there’s a photo-copy of the same letter I received last time.  It doesn’t look quite as nice in black and white, but all the information looks the same.

Stay Three

It has been a few more months, but it’s always great to be back at this hotel.  We just arrived, signed in, and the woman tossed the keys at us.  In the envelope, there’s a photo-copy of the letter.  It is crooked.  Someone just threw the original on the Xerox machine and didn’t even care if it was straight.  Wait… why is there a big blank area on this?  Oh yeah, that’s where they whited-out the paragraphs about the manager’s reception and free breakfast bag.

Stay Four

I just arrived at the hotel.  It would have been nice to be here sooner, but we had to wait thirty five minutes for the shuttle.  We got our keys.  No letter, manager’s reception, or breakfast in the morning.  Still a nice, clean, comfortable hotel… but, no perks.  It won’t be long now.


A few months later, we receive the e-mail.  The hotel loved having us, but decided not to renew our contract.  There’s never any valid reason explained to the crews.  But, we all know.

The hotel committee is suddenly thrust into high gear.  The company must re-negotiate quickly with a new property.  Otherwise, crews will not be able to layover in that city.

Then, an agreement is secured and the trip sheets are updated with the new hotel information.

No problem.  Sure, I really loved the other hotel.  But, I’m confident the new hotel will be great.  A change of scenery never hurt.

Plus, I’m really looking forward to the manager’s reception.

About author

Renewed Pilot

I've endured a roller coaster career in the U.S. Aviation Industry. Currently flying the 737 on my third try with the same legacy carrier, I have also flown for a regional, fractional and start-up carrier. My piloting experience includes the 737, A320, 727, Citation Excel, Citation Bravo, Saab 340 and many light singles and twin engine aircraft. I reside in the suburbs of Nashville, Tennessee.

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