Some luxury hotels will begin offering free Wi-Fi

In most luxury hotels, if you want wireless Internet access, you are going to have to pay.

That trend may be changing. Sort of.

Loews Hotels & Resorts announced last month that it will offer free Wi-Fi at all 18 of its hotels, including the ones in Hollywood, Santa Monica and San Diego. If you want faster Internet to connect up to eight devices, however, that will cost $19.95 per day.

In the past, many luxury hotels offered only one choice: Wi-Fi at a hefty price. Previously, Loews charged about $15 to $20 per day for the slower Internet that it now offers free of charge.


A survey by the American Hotel and Lodging Assn. found that 84% of luxury hotel chains charge for Wi-Fi access, while only 8% of economy hotel chains do.

But hotel experts say many luxury hotels are moving toward a “tiered” Wi-Fi program, in which guests get a choice of average-speed Wi-Fi for free or high-speed Wi-Fi at an extra charge.

Hilton Worldwide recently announced that it would begin offering fast Wi-Fi connections for a fee starting at $3.95 per day at hotels where slower Wi-Fi is already free of charge.

The company said it will start offering the tiered Wi-Fi in the U.S. in the next two months at the Hampton, Hilton Garden Inn, Homewood Suites by Hilton and Home 2 Suites by Hilton brands. It will be rolled out worldwide to those brands later this year.


“An increasing number of our guests are carrying multiple devices and different kinds of devices, and they want higher-speed Internet,” said Josh Weiss, Hilton’s vice president of brand and guest technology.

How much faster? Weiss declined to give exact numbers but said the Wi-Fi would be “appreciably faster,” enabling guests to stream high-definition video on their devices.

Fewer complaints at low-cost airlines

If you fly on a low-cost airline, you may complain less about the service because your expectations for low-cost airlines are lower.

That is the conclusion of a new study by an MIT graduate student published in the Journal of Air Transport Management.

The study looked at complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Transportation about service on major network carriers such as Delta, United and US Airways, as well as low-cost carriers like Southwest and JetBlue.

It found that even when airline service levels for such categories as delays, baggage handling and overbooking were similar among airlines, low-cost carriers had a significantly lower rate of complaints.

The author, Michael Wittman, said one reason passengers on low-cost airlines don’t complain as often may be that they paid less and have lower expectations.


More study is needed, he said, to find out whether fliers on low-cost airlines continue to choose the lowest airfare regardless of service quality.

Hotel to try using phones as room keys

Oh, no. You lost your hotel room key.

That might not be a problem in the future.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts, the hotel giant whose brands include Sheraton, Westin, W and Aloft, is testing new technology that enables guests to check in and open their rooms with a smartphone.

If all goes well, some hotel guests won’t have to speak to any front desk workers.

Starwood is testing the technology in the next few months at the Aloft Harlem in New York and the Aloft Cupertino west of San Jose. It plans to expand the technology to its W hotels next.

Other hotel companies, such as Marriott International, already allow guests to use smartphones to book rooms and check in but still require a worker at the front desk to hand guests a key.


But the trend toward mobile check-in is on the decline, said Bruce Baltin, a senior vice president for PKF Consulting, because for many things, guests still want to talk to someone face to face.

“The industry has a history of trying to make technology more sophisticated than they need it to be,” he said.