IHG hotels offer $100 checked-bag fee rebate this winter, spring

"By Barbara De Lollis, USA TODAY
http://travel.usatoday.com/hotels/po...pring/137705/1Posted Jan 11 2011 6:08AM

Holiday Inn-parent IHG is extending its offer to reimburse weekend guests for their airline checked-baggage fees - up to $100 per household.

Holiday Inn-parent IHG knows that most travelers hate paying $25 a bag to check bags with their airline. That's why the hotel giant has decided not only to extend 2010's "Check it free" bag-fee-rebate promo, but to double the offer to $100, InterContinental Hotels IHG tells Hotel Check-In.

"It's like checking your bags at the counter, then reaching into your pocket and finding $100," IHG exec Del Ross told me.

Here's the deal: Through April 30, which covers spring break, IHG will reimburse weekend warriors for their airline-checked-bag fees of up to $100 per household for two bags on the same trip. All 4,500 hotels in IHG-brand hotels are participating, including Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, Staybridge Suites and InterContinental.

"What's amazing is how many people pay these fees," Ross, IHG's vice president of sales and marketing for the U.S., told me. "It was over $2 billion last year in fees that didn't exist before - at a time when people everywhere are pinching pennies and you have 10% unemployment."

A recent survey of more than 1,300 travelers by the Consumer Travel Alliance showed that 91% of respondents rated carry-on baggage fees "very annoying."

IHG first launched its "Check it free" promo on Sept. 1, 2010 in time for Labor Day Weekend, capping the rebate amount at $50. But Ross said the $50 rebate offer wasn't enough.

"If you have two people traveling and both check bags, then we still haven't fully addressed the burden that's been placed by the airlines," he said. "For weekend trips, there are often two or more people traveling, so we decided to give it all back."

Travel among leisure travelers after the holidays traditionally drops off, so IHG hopes the promo will help its hotels capture a great share of low-period travel.

Are there strings? You bet. But if you fit the bill and are good about doing rebate paperwork, then it's $100 in your pocket. You're eligible to get your Ben Franklin back (in the form of a prepaid Visa card) if you:

* Are a U.S. traveler [US Residents],
* Book two consecutive, weekend nights at an IHG-brand hotels (no restriction there; the promo covers all of IHG's 4,500 hotels),
* Pay with a Visa credit card,
* Are patient enough to do fill out the rebate form and wait for your rebate in the mail.

The first time that Hotel Check-In wrote about IHG's checked-bag offer, Hotel Check-In reader CaptMorpheus wrote a comment complaining about the rebate process.

"Want to get my attention and my business?" CaptMorpheus wrote. "Reimburse me at the hotel counter by deducting it from my bill. Then I'm not out any money till the reimbursement department sends my check 8 weeks later."

But Hotel Check-In reader SittingNxttoYou applauded the move, writing, "Great thinking out side the box. Any rebate is better than none!"

How many people took advantage of the first phase of the promo, which covered Sept. 1 - Dec. 31, 2010?

It's not clear because IHG doesn't know what percentage flew to their hotel and because people have until the end of the month to apply for the rebate. But Ross did tell me that more than 1 million fit the criteria, meaning that they stayed over at an IHG-brand hotel over a weekend and paid with a visa card. And 500,000 people visited the promo site, which contains the rebate form.

I asked Ross why IHG extended the promo to cover spring break, when you might think a promo wouldn't be necessary in a travel market that has slowly been rebounding.

"We think there is a lot of pent-up demand for all types of travel, including leisure travel," he said. "We just want to make sure that we're the first place they want to go."

Readers: Does this sound like a good deal to you?"

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Granted it is a Visa Prepaid card, they are easily spent on gasoline or groceries